Dan McFarland full of praise for Ulster’s young players

Dan McFarland.
Dan McFarland.
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As opening day performances go Ulster could not have asked for much more from their 50-19 victory over Glasgow in Saturday afternoon’s pre-season friendly at the Kingspan Stadium, writes Ciaran Donaghy.

Dan McFarland’s side scored eight tries and 33 unanswered points in the second half after trailing 19-17 at the break.

Speaking after the game the coach was pleased with the contribution of the younger members of the squad.

“They were wide-eyed when I told them they were going to be playing, that’s great and that’s what it’s about, opportunities for those guys,” said McFarland. “If you’d asked Ethan McIlroy three weeks ago if he thought he’d be playing or scoring a try or giving a beautiful pass to Graham Curtis to score a try they probably wouldn’t have believed you.

“We’re not going to read too much into it in terms of where we are as a team but it’s great to get lots of people out on the pitch to get game-time.

“There were a lot of young fellas out there getting an opportunity, so from that point of view it’s really good to see those guys playing. From an outcome point of view it’s really difficult to measure anything. They swapped their whole team around so they have a lot of guys who have effectively only played club rugby until this point.

“Measuring where we’re at is difficult because of that context, what we need to do is look at the systems we’ve been putting in place, look at the individuals and how they operated within those systems.”

Ireland winger Craig Gilroy scored two first half tries as he returned after 10 months out of the game with back injury, No8 Greg Jones also dotted down in the first half, with Billy Burns kicking one conversion. But it was Glasgow that led at the interval with tries from Nick Grigg, Ratu Tagive and Matt Smith with Brandon Thomson converting two.

Angus Kernohan got Ulster’s first try after the break before McIlroy got his debut try on 62 minutes. Wallaby lock Sam Carter, a second half replacement, marked his debut with a try. Nick Timoney barged over on 72 minutes and Curtis son of former Ireland centre Dave rounded off the rout late on. Michael Lowry and John Cooney each slotted over two conversion.

Meanwhile, McFarland denied that Ulster are on the verge of signing Springbok prop Thomas du Toit.

“It’s not true,” he said. “We’ve got some good tight head props here, but with Gareth (Milasinovich) out for most of the season, we only have three specialist tight heads so there is a potential situation where we would need to bring somebody in.

“Marty (Moore) is an experienced player, Ross (Kane) and Tom (O’Toole) are relatively inexperienced but we like them and these are guys for the future so we’re not going to bring someone at Thomas du Toit’s level just at the moment.”