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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 21 March, 2019

'The supporters always got on your back a bit. I'm enjoying having them on my side'

Former Leinster hooker Aaron Dundon is enjoying life in the Ulster management team.

Aaron Dundon in action against Ulster in 2013.
Aaron Dundon in action against Ulster in 2013.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THERE’S A DISTINCTLY Leinster feeling around Ulster’s coaching staff this season.

Jono Gibbes is a big part of that, the forwards coach who spent so long overturning Leinster’s pack into one of the most feared in Europe, while Les Kiss was employed by the national side, who have their offices just down the road in Dublin.

The final piece of the jigsaw, after Dwayne Peel as backs coach, is a former Leinster player in Aaron Dundon, who joins an experienced coaching staff in terms of years involved with the game.

But, as has been asked of the three other coaches already, why Ulster?

“I’ve had some interesting times up here as a player,” the former hooker admitted somewhat surprisingly.

“I didn’t really like coming here to play, I always found it a tough place to play, and the supporters always got on your back a bit. I’m enjoying having the supporters on my side at the moment.

“I knew what Ulster Rugby was about, playing against them and watching them for years while I was with Leinster.

“With Kissy, and even the initial chats I had with Jono, they sold what they want to do with Ulster and it was an easy decision for me. So far I’ve really been enjoying it.”

So far so good for the New Zealander, who has left a pretty successful playing career with Leinster behind and has jumped feet first into coaching, starting with a stint in France with Grenoble.

However, as Dundon already alluded to, when the call came from Ulster, he found it hard to turn down. And so far things have gone pretty well.

Four wins from four, 18 from a possible 20 points and the northern province have certainly put together some impressive performances.

For a team still in its infancy of adopting a brand new style of rugby, it’s gone as well as they could have hoped at this early stage.

“The main thing is the system we’re using,” Dundon explains.

Les Kiss Les Kiss. Source: Darren Kidd/INPHO

“During pre-season I think we struggled a little bit with it but the boys didn’t get disheartened. They kept working away and the last couple of weeks there have been glimpses of it coming through.

“We’ve still got more to show but, hopefully, game by game we keep getting better.

“The main thing is the carrying. We’ve made a point of carrying north. There’s a lot of boys starting to get that and you can see by the number of collisions we’re winning.

“There’s still a bit of work there. That’s what’s really improved in the last few weeks.”

Coming up this weekend is a Saturday trip to Parma to face Zebre (kick-off 2:35pm Irish time) with the Italians in the strange position of coming into the game off the back of a win.

A 43-17 victory away to the Southern Kings highlighted some marked improvements in the Zebre side – as well as some glaring issues for the opponents – and the delight they showed at the final whistle was unavoidable.

Always a physical battle out in Italy, Dundon knows his forward pack will need to rise to the occasion to pick up the win, lest their unbeaten run come to an embarrassing end.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge. The Italian teams are better this year than they have been in the past,” Dundon believes.

“They’re always difficult at home and they’re coming off a good win last week, and the last three or four games they’ve actually been scoring a lot of tries.

“You don’t break them down until the last 15 minutes, they stay in the game, it’s always close. The Scarlets played them and didn’t really broke away in the last 15 minutes. You need an 80 minute performance against these guys, they never go away.

“It’s not an easy game, you can’t go out there saying you’re going there for the five points, you’ve got to get your basics right, get your set piece right.

“The set piece is very important against these guys, they’ve got a good scrum and a good maul, and if you turn up not ready you could come out on the wrong end of it.”

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