Ulster take solace in battle-hardiness and fresh start of new season

The northern province claimed just one win in their five matches since rugby restarted in August.

Roddy Grant speaks to Ulster players during the Pro14 final.
Roddy Grant speaks to Ulster players during the Pro14 final.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THE OLD SEASON will be just 12 days dead and buried when Ulster kick off the new 2020/21 campaign.

It’s scarcely enough time for the ground to settle on their painful lessons against four-time European champions, let alone allow green shoots to take root.

“It’s the start of a new Marathon,” says forwards coach Roddy Grant of Friday’s Pro14 commencement at home to Benetton.

The way Ulster’s hopes of challenging at the top table unravelled in Dublin and Toulouse leave some to welcome the prospect of a fresh start.

In truth, aside from a sensational second-half comeback in Edinburgh to dramatically edge the Pro14 semi-final, they have moved from one disappointing performance to another since rugby restarted in August.

One win in five matches, just as well that ‘one’ was a make-or-break knockout clash away to tough opposition. For Grant, that performance is a platform to work from. Indeed, so is the rest of the playing time they have amassed. The squad, he expects, are fully battle-hardened and ready to hit the ground running in week one.

“I feel it’s great we’ve had games, our bodies are hardened, it allows you to get into a routine, a rhythm of how you want to play,” says Grant, whose pack this week may well contain many of the men who helped Ulster A beat their Leinster counterparts on Friday.

“Hopefully we can make that rhythm count, where we have had games and Treviso haven’t.  It’s a tough game either way.”

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Widening the focus to the longer term, the former Scotland international is keen for Ulster to take the hurt of their Pro14 final and European quarter-final losses and channel it towards going one better next time around.

“Being in a final and a quarter-final, that’s certainly good on paper. We’re happy with that achievement but disappointed obviously in how we went out of both.

“For this season, we have to kick on and do better than how we finished. In terms of goals and whatnot, we want to be competing like we did last season.

“There’s a lot of things we’ve to improve on. It’s the start of a new Marathon.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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