Louis Ludik knows Ulster cannot afford to lose against French visitors

Ulster Rugby's Louis Ludik
Ulster Rugby's Louis Ludik

Having lost their opening game in the European Champions Cup at home to Saracens without gaining any match points full back Louis Ludik knows Ulster can ill afford another slip up in Belfast as four times winners Toulouse visit the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.

Saracens have nine points from two games while the French side have four while Ulster have none - although have played a game less.

“We can’t afford to lose,” admitted Ludik.

“It was very disappointing against Saracens but they played very well and beat us quite convincingly. This weekend is going to be very important for us especially having hopes to reach the playoffs.

“The guys are really positive coming off the Edinburgh win, especially the guys coming off the bench and played really well.

“It is going to be a tough challenge for us. Toulouse are a massive team and are doing well in the Top 14. Everyone knows how well coached they are and what experience they have.

“It will be tough but we just have to bring it on the day especially with the crowd behind us and hopefully we can do it.”

Ludik was instrumental in last week’s win over Edinburgh coming off the bench to play in the centre.

“I really enjoyed it and it is always fun playing in the centre, you get a bit more ball and you are a bit more involved but I like playing fullback as well and I’m so used to it by now.

“I just enjoy being on the field and with every opportunity it doesn’t matter what position I just try to do my best.”

Ludik spent a season in French rugby before signing for Ulster but never got to face Toulouse.

“With Agen we played in the Pro2 so we never played them but it is very close to Agen and a couple of my friends played there.

“I’ve watched them a few times and they have had almost the same squad for a couple of years only Toby Flood has joined them recently but in general they are a real seasoned team that have played together for a long time.”

it going to be a tough challenge.”

Toulouse are an aging team but Ludik thinks that can be an advantage.

“They have a lot of internationals especially that back three, sometimes when you have experience like that it is tough to break down because they know what to do, they know their away round and they know each other, they know exactly what the guy next to them is going to do, they have a bit of youth as well and they love throwing the ball around and it is a good brand of rugby to see.”

French sides have been tagged with the label that they don’t like travelling in Europe and Toulouse have lost on three out of four visits to Belfast.

“In general in the Top14 sides don’t like travelling and they really don’t care almost about those games but championship it massive and every game matters and you can afford to lose, they are going to bring everything especially as they lost at Saracens so it is a must win for them as well.”

“They only lost away and we lost a home game it’s going to be very important for us to win at home, to win at Toulouse and Saracens will be very tough so winning at home is going to be key.”

Ulster win at Edinburgh came a huge price with four key players picking up injuries.

“They are very important for us and have been playing so well but with younger guys coming through they will get an opportunity, you want the best players to be fit for the championship games because it is an important tournament but it is always nice to see the younger guys putting their hands up especially young guys in Ulster coming through , Stuart Olding, Stuart McCloskey just young guys playing brilliant rugby and putting their hand up, it’s good for them to get and opportunity and they can embrace it and test themselves against some of the best players in the world.”

Ulster have only conceded two tries in three Pro12 games although Saracens ran in four.

“I think these last couple of weeks we have been trying hard on defence, it’s almost a saying defence wins you championships, a lot of teams play well with ball in hand but it is very important to have a good defence, against Saracens we slipped a bit but in general we have defended well.”

“I think it is a confidence that Joe and Les have brought into the team and a system that everyone buys into and it is great to see.”