Ulster coach Dan McFarland. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
High praise

'He is the best player in the world' - Ulster coach Dan McFarland on Antoine Dupont

Lack of a bonus point the major frustration for McFarland after Ulster are outclassed.

ONE OF THE lesser-discussed elements of professional sport is just how the greats are admired by even the opposition.

For Antoine Dupont has an admirer in Ulster head coach Dan McFarland, after he watched the diminutive scrum half tear the home side apart in Toulouse’s 48-24 win on Saturday night.

“My personal opinion is he is the best player in the world, and has been for a few years. Great athlete, very composed,” said McFarland.

“He’s got a few errors in him, but he’s got such great play in there as well that he certainly makes up for that. You don’t want to play against him too often. I really enjoy watching him when he is not playing us.”

Watching a side like Toulouse shows just how far the leaps can be in rugby at this level. Ulster were heavily beaten here. McFarland wouldn’t shy away from it.

“Ah look, it was really tough. I felt for our guys, I thought a lot of effort went into that. A lot of effort went into preparation,” he said.

“They certainly left everything out there. We faced a Toulouse team that are outstanding in my view. They are very difficult to play against.

“Do I think we made it easy for ourselves? No. I think there were points in the game where we made a few errors and the difference was the fact they were good enough, very much good enough, to capitalise on those immediately. And also their physical presence in the game; around the set-piece and some of the collisions.”

Which leaves the question, who can compete with them?

“I’m sure there are teams, I’d like to think that at our best we could give ourselves a fighting chance. I don’t think we were tonight.

“We knew how good they would be coming in. And they put 45 points past Lyon last week. They put 50-odd points on Harlequins when they went over there.

“They are very difficult to deal with. Size is becoming a massive thing in rugby at the moment. Most of the teams are chasing these enormous second rows; the Rodney Ah Yous and Skeltons, the second rows that South Africa have and they are very difficult.

“They are massive men who are disruptive at mauls and maul defence, can play around the rucks, tying in bodies. And Toulouse have a couple of them.”

One notable absence from the Ulster team was Rob Herring. The record Ulster appearance holder was spotted walking around the stadium with his left arm in a sling, a victim of a late-in-the-week injury that is becoming rare in the restricted amount of contact these players can withstand as gameday approaches.

“He is going to see the surgeon at the start of next week and will find out. I think the prognosis is not great on the length of the injury so he might be out for a while,” said McFarland.

Any positives to pull out of it all?

“I think we showed patches out there where we put some good play together; we came out and finished well with a try at the end of the first half, it was a pretty good try off the back of one of our pretty standard set-piece there.

“We came out in the second half and made a few errors and the game got away from us a bit. I thought we showed good character to come back and give ourselves a very good chance of a bonus point.

“That was probably the most disappointing element; the fact that we got ourselves into a good position with ten minutes to go and we had a lineout close to their line and we malfunctioned in two set pieces in a row.”

Onwards to Harlequins now on Saturday, at 1pm. Anything less than a win will put their chances of reaching the round of 16 in serious jeopardy.

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