RUGBY: Les Kiss demands biggest team effort to date from Ulster in France

Ulster director of rugby, Les Kiss, in the shadow of the European Champions Cup
Ulster director of rugby, Les Kiss, in the shadow of the European Champions Cup

Director of rugby, Les Kiss, insists Ulster have to produce their best team effort of the season if they are to go to France and get a victory.

The Irish Province go to the East coach of France on Sunday to face pool leaders La Rochelle.

The Top 14 side are making their debut in the European Champions Cup and have already made their mark following Saturday’s bonus point 34-27 win away to Harlequins.

The try scoring bonus was enough to put them above Ulster in Pool A.

Kiss’s troops produced an impressive second half display to turn around a 9-3 deficit against Wasps in Belfast on Friday night to take a valuable opening 19-9 victory against the English Premiership side.

Away form across all competitions has not been great for Ulster and going to La Rochelle will present a massive test.

Kiss made an honest assessment that he did believe Ulster had momentum going to the French side after the Wasps win.

“No we just had to win (against Wasps), that was all,” he said.

“We have a nine day turnaround, they have an eight day turnaround,.

“We have got to get back on the bike, get together on Tuesday and make sure we build a plan that can deal with that away challenge.

“La Rochelle, I am not sure they have lost at home much in the last year or so.

“Gloucester beat them in the Challenge Cup semi-final, and you cannot find many other games where they have lost at home

“Wasps is just a win, I would not say it has built us massive momentum, but it is good to win!” he added.

For the second successive week Ulster produced a lack lustre first half display and went in at the break trailing 6-3, going 9-3 down early in the second half before turning things around.

They controlled the most of the last quarter after Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey crossed for tries, really putting the squeeze on the English visitors.

However, while La Rochelle do have a habit of conceding lots of points, they also have a better knack of scoring, which they displayed on the road against Harlequins.

There is no doubt Ulster will want to do a few things better but Kiss was not beating himself up about the wrongs.

He said: “I’m not going to take away from the victory. It’s a massive victory, it’s a good victory.

“It’s always tough in Europe, those games don’t always flow, you don’t always have those moments of magic.

“We had to tough out big moments and withstand some pressure.

“It challenged our attitude and challenged our character but we stood up to it.

“We had to do the right things, at the right times and we did that in the end. We made that pressure count and the only way it does is on the scoreboard.

“This will be a tight pool so it was important to keep them out at the end and deny them that one point.”

Kiss added: “I do not think we want to get lost in what did not work well (against Wasps) because La Rochelle - and we have done the analysis on them - is a totally different challenge.

“The pressure of being away in a really tough environment, the way they support their team is massive.

“The way they play their game is based on their power game and this super speed on the edges.

“You might say the Wasps are the same, but I do think there is something different about La Rochelle.

“I think next week we are going to have to produce the best team effort than we have been all year to beat them

“They are massively impressive at home, they have pace if we are not working hard in threes, fives and sevens, if we get isolated in our carries which we did a few times against Wasps, but we got away with it because we won the collision, we will find ourselves in trouble.

“It will come down to strong basics, massive, massive team focus this week so that we can rebut what they can throw at us.

“They are massively good team at home,” added Kiss.

Wasps will now look to end a run of five straight defeats when they meet Harlequins at home this weekend, both looking to get their Champions Cup back on track.

Wasps head coach Dai Young was left frustrated at leaking the two second half tries which swung the game.

“I was really pleased with lots of the first half but that spell after half-time when they scored two quick tries turned the momentum in their favour,” he said.

“Then we were chasing the game a bit. Defensively I thought we stood up pretty well considering the opportunities we gave them and we were killed at penalty time really.

“We struggled to get momentum and any grip back on the game really.

“We have to improve for next week’s game against Quins.”