Ulster have won on two of their last three visits to France in Europe and Robbie Diack is hoping to kick off this season’s tournament with another victory as Les Kiss side travel to Oyonnax today.
Oyonnax are second from bottom in the top in the Top 14 win only two wins from eight games and have the worst defence in the league shipping 270 points but it is their first ever European game and Diack knows how difficult wins in France are to come by.
“I don’t think we can look at it like that, they wouldn’t be in the Champions Cup if they hadn’t performed well last year and they’re at home,” said Diack.
“Look at where they finished in the Top 14 last year and it’s one of the toughest leagues to be part of, we’re not looking at their record at the moment.”
“We know how tough this will be playing French teams at home and I know a couple of players personally and I know what it means to them, there’s Pedrie Wannenburg he was here a couple of years back.”
“There was a pre-season game there we won (Bayonne) before we went on to beat Castres and Montpellier so we know what it takes and we know where to take our bodies and our minds in games like this which will be to a dark place but we’re capable of doing that.”
“We know what it takes now and we’re just going to have to replicate that and step up to the plate.”
Diack doesn’t think the synthetic surface at the Stade Charles Mathon will cause Ulster any problems.
“Luckily we do have Aquinas in our back yard so we’ve been working on that and we’ve played a few times against Cardiff as well.”
“Tt’s going to speed the game up a bit but we’ll take it as it comes especially with regard to the scrums.”
“I think that’s the big thing as to what boots the front row wear. But we’re excited about it as we enjoy a fast and expansive game and we’re looking forward to taking them on.”
Wannenburg started for Ulster in the 2012 Heineken Cup final and Diack has remained good friends with the No8 and knows the threat he poses.
“We were friends over here and our families and wives are very good friends.”
“We met up with them during the summer holidays over in France and we are very close friends but it stops on the field.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing him and we’ll have a good catch up after the game but until then it’s all business.
“Pedrie is a powerful player and he’s playing a lot for them at the moment.”
“We know they’ve a very explosive back row with some islanders around as well and you know what they’re like, I think for our back row this weekend it going to be huge physical battle.”
Ulster lost their first two pool games last season and failed to make the quarter finals for the first time in five attempts.
“We’ve reflected on that and after we got knocked out of Europe we wanted to kick-on in the PRO12 and that didn’t turn out well for us either.”
“We’ve now just to focus on one game at a time and take it from there and after this weekend it’s Saracens and then back into the league.”
“We keep on saying we’ve learned from past seasons but it’s about time we stepped up.”
“The win over the Dragons was so important for us, we need to take that confidence into this game.”
“We’ve now got key players in key positions as well which is fantastic for us, we’ve got to do our utmost to get this competition off to a good start and we can build from there.”
Last Sunday’s win at the Dragons was Ulster’s first on the road this season.
“We’ve slipped up against them a few times in the past in fact I only remember beating them once in their back yard so to go there and get a win was crucial for us and that was especially so going over to France where we know it’s going to be particularly tough.”
“We needed that win for confidence in the team and as individuals, I needed to get 80 minutes behind me and was grateful for the opportunity I got and I thank Les for that, hopefully I can prove myself this week.”