RUGBY OPINION: A win for Ulster would help lift the mood

Ulster skipper Andrew Trimble talks to his team during Captain's Run ahead of Saturday's Bordeaux game
Ulster skipper Andrew Trimble talks to his team during Captain's Run ahead of Saturday's Bordeaux game

It’s another exciting weekend of European Champions Cup rugby with the battle for the knockout places reaching new heights.

It is also disappointing that Ulster are not among those contenders.

Leinster, already certain of a place in the last eight faced Castres on Friday night and as good as secured that home quarter-final after a 24-24 draw.

This evening, Munster will look to secure a home quarter-final having also already qualified.

And tomorrow, Connacht will look to make history and reach the last eight for the first time when they take on Toulouse. Incidentally, they could push Leinster out of the home draw if they won with a bonus point and by a 62 points margin!

In Belfast, Ulster conclude their Pool Five campaign this afternoon at Kingspan Stadium against Bordeuax- Begles (kick-off 1pm).

It’s a dead-rubber.

Well acutally, in terms of where Ulster are currently, it is hugely important.

A win will ensure they do not finish bottom of the group.

A win will keep their impressive home record (3 defeats in 25 matches) in Europe intact.

A win will be the injection the side needs (they have lost their last three games) to give them confidence and a bit of momentum.

It will take the same sort of performance that saw them defeat pool toppers Clermont Auvergne 39-32 last month to get them over the line.

A depleted squad has not helped Ulster this season. The injury jinx continued to hit the Irish Province this week.

They have not made any excuses around that - but the prop crisis escalated last weekend and Jonny Simpson gets his first senior start for the side today.

Things are looking a little brighter on the horizon and hopefully by the time the Guinness PRO12 returns on February 10 the injury profile will have improved.

The international players will not be on board - but reflecting on what has gone before, Ulster have been without a few recently anyway.

A win this afternoon will hopefully be the springboard that gives the side back their belief, their confidence - their mojo.

A win can simply change the mood.

The PRO12 is now the priority for Ulster and with five games over the Six Nations period there is an opportunity to put themselves right back in the mix.

Edinburgh at home, Glasgow at home, and then three games in a row against Italian opposition - two of those at home - Ulster should be knocking on that play-off door.

They are only a small distance off it at the minute, but if they get to the end of the Six Nations and are right on the edge there is no reason why a semi-final cannot be secured.

Director of rugby, Les Kiss, just wants to get through today and have the one statistic that really matters at the end - a winning scoreline.

“It has been disappointing over the past few weeks. Against good opposition our stats have been better in some areas, yet we cannot get that to show on the scoreboard.

“The boys remain upbeat. Yes, disappointed in some of the results recently, but they have got to get out there, put on a performance.

“It is at home and we need to make sure we do the right things to get the result we need,” he added.