Ulster need to produce biggest performance yet says Rory Best before Racing 92 test at Kingspan Stadium
Ulster will have to produce simply their best performance of the season on Saturday afternoon if they are to defeat Racing 92 at Kingspan Stadium (3:15pm) in a pivotal European Champions Cup pool four tie insists skipper Rory Best.
It may not be do-or-die or last chance saloon for the Irish Province, but another famous victory in Belfast over a French side would give them a massive boost in their bid to reach the knockout stages for the first time since 2014.
Five points behind Racing in Pool Four, Ulster will probably need a minimum of four points from their last two games to give themselves a chance of making the last eight.
Racing, whose last defeat in Europe was in last season’s final to Leinster and they have brought a fully loaded side to Belfast signalling their intentions of looking to secure their knockout place by winning at the Kingspan Stadium.
They won the corresponding group game in October 44-12, but Ulster are much improved from then indicated by their maximum 10 match points haul in back-to-back wins over Scarlets last month.
And there is a certain amount of confidence Ulster can take from their record again French teams in the past 20 years - winning 17 out of 23 matches.
In a week where re-runs of Ulster’s famous 33-27 win over Stade Francais 20 years ago - on their way to lifting the trophy in 1999 - have been played, home fans are hoping they will see the toppling of another big French name.
Last year La Rochelle came to Ulster as pool leaders and suffered defeat although they still went on to make the last eight.
And names like Clermont, Toulouse and Biarritz have also found Belfast an unhappy hunting ground.
Best said: ! believe we just have to take the confidence from knowing it can be achieved, it has been historically achieved by this team at this ground.
“The ground has looked like this but it has also looked very different here. We have done it in both.
“I think for us that is giving us the confidence to know it can be done, but ultimately the biggest confidence comes from us by our preparation.
“We know if we prepared well and we play well and we start well and we are physical and are all the things you want from a game of rugby that we can beat anyone on our day.
“That is where we have got to get to, we cannot rely on the fact that we are going to be here, hopefully a sell-out and hopefully that is going to be enough to beat a team like Racing, because it is not.
“It is going to take if you want that 16th man, but it is going to take 15 men on the pitch giving absolutely everything they have and then it is going to take the bench coming on to lift the performance again to see it out,” said Best.
Making the knockout stages would also give Best and his fellow Irish internationals something to really look forward to when they return to their Province after the Six Nations in March.
“When you look into the sort of the near future, we have a great opportunity with two big European games that we feel we can win and put ourselves in a great position,” said Best.
“It would be fantastic to come back after the six nations and have that quarter-final. You know the last few years Munster and Leinster have had that and we have not.
“But more so from the PRO14 we have a fixture list at a time that is there are a lot of winnable games in it, we are sitting fifth now, but last Saturday morning we were sitting second, we are only two points off second now.
“If we get a good run and five strong performances we can come back from six nations and potentially have a quarter-final, potentially be sitting in that second spot with a home quarter-final, in the league.
“If we look forward to that and rely on that to be the case then we are going to be looking coming in after the six nations again with no quarter final in Europe and knowing that we have to even scramble to make Europe next season like we did last year.
“We have to make sure we put yourselves in good positions, but we also have to go out and take it.
“We have an opportunity now in seven games between now and March 20 to really take that and grab it.”