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Ulster head coach position would be 'massive' honour, says Neil Doak

The former scrum-half has been behind much of the province’s best form in recent seasons.

Doak is a former Ireland cricket international.
Doak is a former Ireland cricket international.
Image: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

NEIL DOAK’S TOP priority, should he be confirmed as Ulster’s next head coach, will be to help the province become more clinical in their use of attacking possession.

The 42-year-old continues to be strongly linked with the position, which has been vacant since Mark Anscombe’s departure during the summer.

Speaking at yesterday’s EPCR launch, Doak refused to comment on the possibility of being promoted from his current assistant coaching role, although he did confirm that interim Director of Rugby Less Kiss will leave Ulster on the 13th of October.

Doak is highly-regard within the coaching community for his rugby knowledge and understanding, and has largely been running Ulster’s attacking play and backline in recent seasons.

Having played 76 games as a scrum-half for his native province, securing the position of head coach would be a “massive” honour, admitted Doak. His appointment would also mean another indigenous head coach in Ireland, with Anthony Foley in place at Munster.

It’s bit like Axel, when you play and coach for your province, it’s a big honour,” said Doak.

“It is slightly different when you’re driving the kids to school and you’re meeting different people and they see you on TV at games. There is that added pressure, but there’s added pressure everywhere. It’s part and parcel of it; I’m quite lucky to do what I do.”

Doak believes that he and Kiss, along with Jonny Bell and the other backroom staff at Ulster, have “worked pretty well together” at the start of this season, even if the Ireland defence coach’s involvement was only temporary.

Neil Doak talks to Paddy Jackson Doak with Ulster out-half Paddy Jackson. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Their efforts have led Ulster to three wins in five Guinness Pro12 fixtures, but Doak’s real ambition focuses on the end of the season, when trophies are up for grabs.

“We’ve been pretty successful without getting any silverware, and that’s something we want to change,” says Doak.

What is the biggest key to Ulster moving from knock-out stage regulars to Pro12 or Champions Cup winners?

I think as we continually say in our review of games, we create a lot of opportunities, it’s just about finishing them off. Against the top sides, it is about being clinical. Everybody can beat each other on the day.

“We’ve been good at creating opportunities, but I suppose on a regular basis, we haven’t been good at finishing things off. That’s one area that we’ve talked about, identified and we need to be a bit more clinical and ruthless.

“When you get in the heat of battle, under pressure, can you deliver the fundamentals? Can you do the basics right? It’s trying to give that exposure to all the players and it’s a little bit of individual errors that have cost us.

“Those are the small margins against the bigger teams that you have to nail down.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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