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'I hate blowing smoke up their arse, but Leinster still produced an intensity'

Ulster boss Dan McFarland wants to see a response from his squad against Leinster this weekend.

ULSTER BOSS DAN McFarland is nothing if not honest and he didn’t beat around the bush after watching his team losing 26-20 to Connacht on their return to rugby at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.

While the westerners played some thrilling attacking rugby and defended savagely at times, Ulster were a more inconsistent force – their performance stunted by lineout failings and basic handling errors.

matthew-rea-is-tackled-by-tom-farrell Ulster were second best against Connacht yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ulster came into the game having watched Glasgow lose to Edinburgh on Saturday, a result that secured a Pro14 semi-final for McFarland’s side before they had even played Connacht. 

“Two weeks ago, I thought to myself I’d actually like it a lot if Glasgow won last night because it would have given us a really meaningful game today,” said McFarland yesterday evening.

“But I also feel there’s a test in games like that as well, where if you watched Leinster come out [against Munster]… I hate blowing smoke up their arse, but they still produced an intensity that was there.

“I suppose they had an unbeaten record to defend as well, so there is that, but the bottom line is that there was an intensity in that and I just felt we were a fair bit short of what we can achieve and put out on the pitch.

“The lads are aware of that, it’s not the end of the world, but it would have been nice to produce something closer to what we know we’re capable of.”

Ulster’s clash with Leinster this Saturday is another game that is without any meaning, in the sense that both of their semi-final places have already been confirmed, but McFarland’s side will be determined to turn up much more convincingly.

They will be away to Edinburgh in the Pro14 semi-finals in two weekends’ time, with a Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse also to come next month, so picking up some form looks important.

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“I think a boost in energy and physicality is the need,” said McFarland of what he wants to see from his players against Leinster.

jacob-stockdale-and-jack-carty Ulster fullback Jacob Stockdale with Connacht's Jack Carty. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“So we need to take a step closer to the level that wins semi-finals because we know what we put out today doesn’t win semi-finals, and we need the mindset that ‘actually it doesn’t matter what game we’re playing, we have to be closer to our best because losing is painful and we don’t want to lose.’

“Fair play to Connacht, once their tails were up they got into the game physically.  We had opportunities in the second half as well, Nick Timoney scored and we were on top at that stage, but we didn’t hammer home our advantage. We just let the momentum slip away from us.”

McFarland confirmed that the half-time removals of John Cooney, Jack McGrath, and Marty Moore had been planned and he indicated that Ulster will also make several changes to their starting XV for Saturday’s meeting with Leinster.

As yesterday’s stand-in captain, Billy Burns, pointed out, Ulster must turn the page quickly.

“The games are only going to get bigger and a lot more riding on them,” said the out-half.

“We’re a team that plays well when we gather momentum and confidence, and we had an opportunity today to get a result and build some momentum off the back of such a long period away and we didn’t take that, so it’s all about Leinster now.

“I think people on the outside could say that we’re looking ahead to the semi-final, but that’s not the case.

“We need to put in a performance next week because if we play well next week, if we can get a good win, it would probably give us a good chance of performing better the week after.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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