Top spot in group has to be aim for Ulster insists assistant coach Allen Clarke

Luke Marshall goes over for a try against Toulouse last week
Luke Marshall goes over for a try against Toulouse last week

Assistant coach Allen Clarke insists Ulster are still targeting top spot in Pool One of the European Champions Cup.

And that means going to France on Sunday and defeating four times champions Toulouse and then winning their outstanding away game to Oyonnax on January 10 to set up a showdown with current group leaders Saracens.

Ulster’s impressive try scoring bonus point 38-0 win over Toulouse in Belfast last week left them nine points behind Saracens, who took five match points from their visit to Oyonnax.

The English Premiership side are expected to take another maximum five points at home this weekend which means Ulster need a win to stay in touch with the leaders.

“The game in hand is crucial as it potentially sets up a massive game against Saracens next month,” said Clarke. “Our target is still to top the group, that is the only way you are guarnateed qualification to the knockout stages.

“However, we know there is a massive challenge ahead this weekend in France against Toulouse.

“I know if we have suffered an away defeat like they did, we would be looking to make a statement the following weekend. We fully expect Toulouse to come out with all guns blazing.

“However, we are also confident with how we are preparing for the game and the players are full of enthusiasm and excitment after last week because they went out and put themselves right back in the mix.”

The three best runners-up across the five groups will also qualify for the quarter-finals, but Clarke insisted they were not looking at that situation.

“As long as there is a chance to win the group, then that will be our target. If you aim for going there and looking at taking a point then you are setting your stall too low.

“We also respect the challenge in front of us this weekend, irrespective of how impressive we were at home last week,” added Clarke.

Ulster will have the same player squad to select from this weekend and it is expected they are likely to start with the majority of the team which opened the game last week.