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'A massive talent in the group that isn’t expressing itself': Kiss and Ulster left searching for answers

The northern province have now lost four consecutive games in all competitions.

Rory Best speaks to the Ulster players after the weekend's loss in Belfast.
Rory Best speaks to the Ulster players after the weekend's loss in Belfast.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

ULSTER’S DIRECTOR OF Rugby Les Kiss says the squad keep challenging themselves every week but the same errors keep knocking them back after his side’s 26-22 loss to Bordeaux-Begles.

It was a fourth straight defeat for Ulster in all competitions, their second of the season at the Kingspan Stadium, and their ninth loss in their last 13 matches, a run which has seen them slip to sixth in the Guinness Pro12 and finish bottom of their Champions Cup pool.

It’s been nothing short of a wretched run for Ulster, who have watched as a promising start to the season has gone down the pan, and now fans are searching for answers to an infinite number of questions about their team.

So, it seems, are the coaching staff, with Kiss admitting that if they get caught up trying to work out all the small details it could go against them.

“I think you can get lost in trying to pick out a lot of things,” the Australian coach began. “You are asking for one thing. We just have to trust we are doing the right things.

“We’ve challenged ourselves every week, since the Connacht game, that we haven’t won since then to work on the solutions we think are right.

“The truth is if we can be a little bit more clinical at times, lower the error rate those types of things we may just stretch that scoreline to mitigate for some of the things that do not happen for us.

Les Kiss Kiss speaking after Saturday's defeat. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“But in the end it has not been, so we just have to suck it up and ensure that we work hard on what we have to work hard on, stick together and get the job done.”

The issue is these problems have existed since that first defeat of the season in Galway back in October. The wins since then have been few and far between, and the defeats among them have been poor.

Despite talking a lot about confidence not being an issue during the week, from the outside it seems like the mindset within the camp is one that’s hard to shake, with former flanker Stephen Ferris saying as much on Twitter after the game.

Kiss acknowledges that the mood in the camp isn’t exactly the greatest, but says they do believe that they’re not as far off winning as their recent results make them out to be.

“It’s a number things, confidence is certainly part of it,” he replied when asked why the team have struggled for wins.

“There’s a massive talent in the group that isn’t expressing itself as often as we would like. A few errors here and there take away the opportunity to build on it.

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“Ultimately, the first thing we need now is the individual and collective will to stick and not lose sight of what we stand for. We need to challenge ourselves in the right way. It would be easy to start throwing things around left, right and centre.

“I truly believe we’re not too far off, we have to stick with it.”

He’ll now get three weeks to overturn this psychological block and get Ulster back into a position where they can mount a challenge for the top four of the Pro12 during the Six Nations.

Bordeaux-Begles players celebrate at the final whistle Bordeaux players celebrate at the final whistle. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ulster’s next game sees them welcome Edinburgh to the Kingspan Stadium on 10 February in a game they can ill afford to lose, both from a league point of view and a mental one.

Going into the short break on the back of four consecutive defeats isn’t ideal, and Kiss is fully aware of that, but he says Ulster cannot allow themselves to get down about their situation.

He admitted: “There’s nothing worse than going into a break with a loss. This will hurt for a while and it should. No one feels comfortable, nobody feels like this is acceptable. We understand that we have to work to get out of this phase.

“I believe in the guys, I believe we can do this season well. I do. It’s not being unrealistic I think, it’s just important we don’t put our heads in the sand and believe woe is me all the time, we’ve got to keep our heads up to a certain degree and stay confident.

“My job isn’t to try and pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, my job is to work towards solutions, work with the guys we have in the team and make sure we have the mental strength to work through this.

“These things happen, we’ve got to come out of it and we have a good chance during the Six Nations to do that.”

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