Doak has huge call to make ahead of Glasgow trip

Ulster Iain Henderson with his team mates watch his tackle on the big screen
Ulster Iain Henderson with his team mates watch his tackle on the big screen

Ulster head coach Neil Doak has a massive call to make ahead of this weekend’s final regular season Guinness PRO12 match against Glasgow at Scotstoun.

Saturday’s 23-23 draw with Munster in Belfast left Ulster fourth in the PRO12 standings and facing a tough trip to face Glasgow in the charge for a home semi-final.

Pacemaker Press 20/1/2014 ' Ulster Coach Neil Doak  during a press conference on tuesday ahead of the European Rugby Champions Cup game against  Leicester Tigers  on saturday at The Kingspan Stadium in Belfast '  Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 20/1/2014 ' Ulster Coach Neil Doak during a press conference on tuesday ahead of the European Rugby Champions Cup game against Leicester Tigers on saturday at The Kingspan Stadium in Belfast ' Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The Scottish region are lying second on points difference only from leaders Ospreys and by virtue of having had a win more than third placed Munster, also on 70 points.

Ulster are relying on results elsewhere going their way to give them a chance of making it a home semi-final in the play-offs on the weekend of May 22/23.

And Doak’s side would probably have to pick up a try scoring bonus point to be almost certain of a home draw.

The top two finishers in the league will gain home advantage in those play-offs and the current top four teams have already ensured they are in the semis.

With that in mind and given that Munster are expected to win against NG Dragons at Irish Independent Park, Cork and Ospreys are favourites to win even on a tricky trip to Galway to face a Connacht, an Ulster win could still leave them on the road in the play-offs.

Doak could opt to rest some of his key players and decide that there are too many permutations and odds against getting a home semi-final and focus on going away in the play-offs and being the first team in PRO12 history to win on the road in 20 previous semi-finalists attempts.

Factor in the fact that Iain Henderson is facing a ban for a red card - he could get away with one week - and Ulster are also going to appeal the card; Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst were injury concerns after Saturday’s game along with Roger Wilson.

Ruan Pienaar had been in a boot last week as a precaution with an ankle injury and although he played, he was certainly not near 100 per cent.

And Craig Gilroy is nursing a hamstring tweak and while he was expected to go to Glasgow another week off would probably help him along.

That option was certainly not one on Doak’s mind in the immediate aftermath of Ulster’s draw with Munster when asked if he thought it (home tie) was doable?

“Look we are on the thought process of going to Glasgow to get a result for us.

“Obviously we do have to rely on others doing us a favour. We will focus on Glasgow, they obviously had a difficult game this weekend and did not get the result they were hoping for - and the Ospreys did well.

“Four quality sides in the top four and on their day any body can beat any body, and we have to make sure we are ready to go next weekend.”