Ulster Rugby trio get all clear for big French European Cup assisgnment at Clermont

Ulster's Jordi Murphy
Ulster's Jordi Murphy

Three points from their last two Heineken Champions Cup games will guarantee Ulster a place in the quarter finals for the second consecutive year.

Boosted by the return of international back row duo Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee and winning seven of their last eight games skills coach Dan Soper knows a win will probably seal top spot in Pool Three and a home quarter-final.

Ulster's Marcell Coetzee

Ulster's Marcell Coetzee

“That’s exactly what we want to do, go over there and play well and if we are to win over there we will have to play exceptionally well, said Soper.

“Looking at the performances, we have probably had a steady upward incline in terms of the quality of performance, we have got an opportunity to get a home quarter-final in Europe which would be pretty great,” said Soper.

“We’ll go there with confidence but we are under no illusions, we understand that we’ll have to play really well and keep getting better, that’s what yesterday has been about.

“Our training was looking back at Friday night at looking at the things we did well but also looking at things we didn’t do so well, that we’re going to have to get right this weekend otherwise we’re up against one of the juggernauts of European rugby, they’re a helluva team and if we’re not on the money, it’ll go to the last game and to put ourselves in a great position, we’ll probably need to win them both.”

Ulster's John Cooney

Ulster's John Cooney

Ulster won the 18-13 when the sides met in Belfast and Soper would settle for that outcome at the Stade Marcel Michelin but is expecting a backlash.

“We poked the bear, for that game we had a plan and a lot of things came off and it gave us the opportunity to develop but the conditions probably helped a wee bit that night but yeah, we have taken things out of that game but we also know Clermont will be looking to improve their performance from that night and it’s a big challenge.”

“What I do know is they have a lot of quality rugby players and if they get it right, they can be unplayable so whatever their focus is on, what competition, I’ve no idea but on any given day, if they get it right, they’re a helluva team particularly at home.”

“You get some wonderful highlights out of them, don’t you, some of their plays on the edge, the offloading and that sort of thing so if we give them opportunities to display those then it’s going to be tough afternoon for us so, hopefully we won’t give them those opportunities and take the ones that we create for ourselves.”

Knowing what’s coming from Clermont is one thing stopping it is another thing.

“We got bits of it right last time but certainly, the first thing is to keep the ball away from them and then Jared’s defensive system...he’s been working hard on the guys and we know we will have to have a lot of speed in our defence, get into good areas to make effective tackles and slow their ball, and if we don’t do that they are a super-fast team and will do a lot of damage.

While results have being going well one area of concern for Ulster has been a misfiring lineout, against Connacht they lost six throws on their own ball and four against Munster.

“We’re always working on the line-out; Roddy (Grant) is working really hard on it and the guys are working hard on it.”

“It’s such a competitive part of the game, every game and there’s a lot of homework goes into it, from both sides looking at each other, we’ve a lot of trust in it our guys. It’s one area of our game we want to improve but the same as many aspects of our game we want to improve.”