EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP: Ulster assistant coach Allen Clarke demands big performance in France

Ulster Assistant Coach Allen Clarke
Ulster Assistant Coach Allen Clarke

Assistant coach, Allen Clarke said performance is key for Ulster this weekend as they look to keep their hopes of making the knockout stages of the European Champions Cup.

The Irish Province return to the French Alps on Sunday to face Oyonnax in one of a number of rescheduled games this weekend in the Euro tournament, postponed from the first round due to the terror attacks in Paris.

It is a pivotal game for Ulster in Pool One as they chase down unbeaten and runaway leaders, Saracens – which is where they go to six days later for the penultimate group game.

Ulster put themselves right back into serious contention to make the knockout stages with back-to-back victories over Toulouse last month, leaving them nine points behind Saracens but with this weekend’s game in hand against Oyonnax.

This season’s Top 14 strugglers have still to visit Belfast and there is the danger of expectancy riding on both games in that Ulster should get a maximum 10 match points out of the two games which would almost guarantee them a place in the last eight as a best runner-up if Sarries were to top the group.

However Clarke insisted it was about getting a performance from the side this weekend which would deliver a win - and there was certainly no talk of bonus points within the camp in the build-up this week.

Having gone through December unbeaten, Ulster were brought back to earth with a little bump last weekend when they lost 9-7 at home against Munster in Belfast in a Guinness PRO12 game.

Ulster delivered a well below par performance and failed to make the most of their opportunities as well as making too many unforced errors.

Clarke said: “Our last two performances in Europe got us back on track within the group and we are in a competitive position over all the pools now to be pushing ahead for a qualification spot. “There is a real excitement going into this weekend.

“But obviously the frustration of last Saturday in many regards adds to the focus as to where our attention needs to be to ensure we deliver the quality of performance that is required to get the win this weekend.

“We have got to earn the right to get the win in the first instance,” said Clarke, when asked about thoughts on a bonus point.

“We will be playing on a 3G surface which means it is going to be quicker, the ball will bounce differently. The game will go up a level from last week.

“It is going to be a quicker game so our focus is to build a performance.

You saw from Saracens even at home against Oyonnax, it was only 10-3 after 30 minutes, and yet they ran away with that in the end.

“We have got to build that pressure and be good about our business and be good when we do not have the ball and when we do make sure we are playing the right areas of the park, and choosing whether to be direct or go around them.”