There are no second chances in Europe insists Ulster’s Rory Best

Rory Best
Rory Best

Captain Rory Best spelt the message out clearly to his Ulster team mates this week that there is no room for error as they embark on another European Champions Cup campaign.

The Irish Province travel to France on Friday ahead of Saturday’s opening Pool Four game against Champions Cup debutantes Oyonnax.

In a group with another French club and one of the most successful in Europe, Toulouse as well as big money spending English Premiership side, Saracens, Ulster face a formidable task if they are to reach the quarter-finals.

Oyonnax will be seen as one of the so-called ‘weaker’ teams in the competition and that puts immediate pressure on 1999 winners, Ulster, to get their campaign off to a winning start - particularly bearing in mind what is ahead.

“There are no second chances in Europe,” said Best.

“It’s such an intense competition, there’s only six games and then you’re either out or going through.

“You need to take the first one and give it everything you’ve got.

“Then you go to the next one, and then the next one.

“Everyone is saying the same thing, you have to win your home games and pick something up away from home.

“You look at the so-called weaker teams in your group and people are going to try and pick them off or at the very least get a bonus point, that puts a bit of pressure on us because we have them up first.

“We got the away win last week, we need to make sure we perform.

“We’ve looked at them, we’ve studied them and they’re a very good side but we also believe we have it in the arsenal to beat them away.

“It’s not win or bust but what we don’t want to do is get to January and say ‘if only we’d got that win in Oyonnax’

“You don’t want to say ‘my goodness we beat Toulouse home and away but we’re still behind Saracens because we didn’t get an away win.’

“You don’t get a second chance. If we lose we can’t say well we’ll pick it up along the way on like you can in the league.”

For Ulster, Europe has not thrown up so many unknowns in recent seasons.

However, this weekend’s visit to the French Alps does bring a degree of freshness against opposition they have never played before - and the added ingredient of it being played on a 3G pitch.

“It’s a very big game for them,” said Best.

“They’ve fought into the top tier of European rugby and, first game at home, they’ve a very good home record.

“It’s going to be tough. Probably the dangerous thing is, they’ve a few players we know, Tonga’uiha, Stan Wright, Pedrie (Wannenbrug)who was here, but they’ve a lot of other good players that maybe for supporters aren’t household names.

“The danger for us is that we maybe take the eye off the ball. We’ve done a lot of homework, we know a lot about them but we’ve got to be really precise and really disciplined.

“We have to take away that fire and just make it a rugby match,” said Best.