Dan McFarland prepares Ulster for their toughest test in Clermont

Jacob Stockdale scores Ulster's fifth try during the PRO14 Round 10 inter-pro clash against Munster. Picture: John Dickson (www.dicksondigital.com)
Jacob Stockdale scores Ulster's fifth try during the PRO14 Round 10 inter-pro clash against Munster. Picture: John Dickson (www.dicksondigital.com)
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After two bonus points wins over Irish opposition in the PRO14 Ulster travel to the Stade Marcel Michelin for a shootout that will decide who tops Pool Three in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Ulster beat the French side 18-13 in Belfast and go into the fifth round of pool matches a point ahead of Franck Azema’s team as the pair each eye a quarter-final.

Ulster and Clermont should make the quarter finals but the prize of a home quarter final is on offer for the pool winners.

Clermont have only lost once in the Champions Cup on home soil since October 2008, Bordeaux Begles in 2016 were the last team to leave Auvergne with a victory in a game remembered for Morgan Parra in explicitly turning down an easy kick at goal to earn a losing bonus point that would have sent Clermont into the quarter finals.

Ulster coach Dan McFarland is under no illusions on the task facing his side.

“We have to go to one of the most dangerous teams in Europe and in terms of an attacking threat, arguably the most dangerous team given the individuals they have,” said McFarland.

“It will be a huge test, both the teams in our group that have gone there this year have had 50s put on them, and these are not nobody teams this is Bath and Harlequins.”

“We’ll do a little bit of a review on the Munster game but it’ll be quickly onto Clermont, the biggest thing when you go to a side like that, as it was when we went to Racing last year, it’s got to be your collective that is strong.”

“You have to work well as a team because the moment any kind of fracture lines appear in that collective, they will expose them, they can do it from 80 metres out, 60 metres out, and Clermont score in bursts.”

“You’ll see three tries in 10 minutes and that’s it, boom, game over so your collective has to be strong and it has to be consistently strong, there isn’t much new about that for us, it’s something that we’re consistently talking about but it’s particularly the case when you play one of those star-studded French teams.”

If Ulster are to upset the odds in France Stuart McCloskey could be the player to expose the Clermont defence.

The centre got the bonus point try against Munster and was awarded the man of the match accolade.

“Strong carrying that is at the forefront of Stu’s game, making yards and being tough there, you can add to that the stuff on the defensive side and Stu is an excellent defender and a defensive leader for us working in tandem with Lukey in the midfield there.”

“I know Jared is really pleased when those two are in tandem in midfield because they’re big men, they’re tough, they like hitting stuff and they also understand defensive systems and defensive reads, you can’t ask for much more than that.”