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Attack! Attack! Attack! Ulster determined to 'express themselves' in Clermont

Les Kiss is demanding an even better performance from his side.

Image: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

IN A YEAR full of historical landmarks for Irish rugby, Ulster are targetting victory in one of Europe’s most daunting venues today (kick-off 15.05 Irish time, Sky Sports).

Stade Marcel Michelin is the stage for what head coach Les Kiss hopes will be a repeat result, with an improved performance after last weekened’s thrilling win over Clermont.

The Top 14 leaders showed enough quality and character in the closing stages at Kingspan Stadium last Saturday to leave Ulster in no doubt that they will have their hands full. But after Tommy Bowe thinks back to a trip he made to the venue with Ospreys, he stressed the need to fight fire with fire.

“We know it’ll be a difficult game. We’ll have to keep the pressure on them throughout the whole game. Because, like they showed at the weekend, we were comfortable at one stage, but they can really squeeze you, eke out a few tries and make it a difficult game.

So we know if we’re going to go there and win we’re going to have to keep attacking, attacking, attacking the whole match.”

Director of rugby Les Kiss looks like a man boosted simply by being able to name a similar starting XV. Robbie Diack has some “abdominal trauma” and will be out for up to a month to recover, so Franco van der Merwe is the only change to the side which began so well in Belfast.

“Franco had a rest last week and it’s a good time for him to come back in,” explained Kiss.

“I thought Pete (Browne) did well last week and also Kieran Treadwell put in a superb effort off the bench from half-time. During the season so far we’ve had to make a lot more changes from game-to-game so this is a good opportunity to keep it as stable as possible. It’s nice to have a situation where the combinations can work one further week together.”

All over the field, those units will face their toughest test of the season with Camille Lopez and Morgan Parra pulling the strings of a formidable Clermont attack. Both coach and players have demanded that standards of defence are ramped up sharply.

“We were a little bit disappointed with our defence,” said Bowe.

“We held off a little bit. There were times we could have gotten up in their faces a little bit. We were happy to drift off. It gave them easy yards and once you give them easy yards, you’ll keep going backwards until you’re over your own try-line.”

The odds are against the northern province, but if they were to cause a shock they would take over the driver’s seat in Pool 5. Exeter’s win in Bordeaux yesterday denied the French side even a losing bonus point and so they are locked at nine points with Ulster.

Adding to that tally today won’t be easy though.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a fantastic atmosphere and we’ve got to embrace it and relish it and play like we can. Their supporters were over last week and were brilliant, we’ll have a lot of supporters in France and they will be brilliant, so it’s going to be a fantastic day,” says Kiss.

“It’s an imposing record they have. I think to go there and to try to play within yourself and to play safe, probably isn’t the right way to approach it. Hopefully, if everything goes to plan, we can go out and express ourselves and I’m sure they will want to do that too.

“We know we were poor at times and late in the game we gave them opportunities to get back into it. We have focused on a few areas to improve on this week. The bottom line is, what we delivered last week we should expect of ourselves every time we go out and play.

“But we’ve got to deliver even better than we did last week.”

Clermont Auvergne

15. Isaia Toeava
14. Noa Nakaitaci
13. Remi Lamerat
12. Wesley Fofana
11. Nick Abendanon
10. Camille Lopez
9. Morgan Parra

1. Etienne Falgoux
2. Benjamin Kayser
3. Davit Zirakashvili
4. Arthur Iturria
5. Sébastien Vahaamahina
6. Viktor Kolelishvili
7. Alexandre Lapandry
8. Damien Chouly (captain)

Replacements:

16. John Ulugia
17. Thomas Domingo
18. Michael Simutoga
19. Flip van der Merwe
20. Peceli Yato
21. Ludovic Radosavljevic
22. Patricio Fernandez
23. Aurelien Rougerie

Ulster:

15. Charles Piutau
14. Tommy Bowe
13. Luke Marshall
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Louis Ludik
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Ruan Pienaar

1. Kyle McCall
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Wiehahn Herbst
4. Peter Browne
5. Franco van der Merwe
6. Iain Henderson
7. Chris Henry
8. Sean Reidy

Replacements:

16. Rob Herring
17. Andy Warwick
18. Rodney Ah You
19. Kieran Treadwell
20. Clive Ross
21. Paul Marshall
22. Darren Cave
23. Jacob Stockdale

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