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Addison makes a break beyond Zebo when the sides met in Paris.
Addison makes a break beyond Zebo when the sides met in Paris.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Racing mark defining day in Ulster's campaign

The Paris giants lead the way to the quarter-finals, but Ulster have ensured they will be ready.
Jan 12th 2019, 7:28 AM 6,395 4

THIS IS WHAT it is all about.

Ulster didn’t exactly set imaginations alight over the inter-pro period, least of all  when they sent a callow team down the A1 to Leinster. An inevitable result followed, and an inevitable raft of changes came in yesterday’s team announcement.

This is Ulster locked, loaded and ready to go full-tilt. No more phony way, no managing minutes, precautionary rests or holding back. The European campaign is here to be defined when they kick off against Racing 92 at 15.15 (BT Sport).

Ravenhill will need to rock. Because nothing will come easy against this iteration of the Paris club. Laurent Labit and Travers have their team humming, with more points on the board than anyone else in this year’s Heineken Champions Cup. They lead pool four by five points, and so could secure a place in the knockout stages with a win today and the tools are in place to do just that.

Though Donnacha Ryan and Teddy Thomas are out injured, the prodigious playmaking skills of Finn Russell and Leone Nakarawa – both of whom have fond memories of the Kingspan thanks to their title win with Glasgow Warriors – are in place. Behind the Fijian, the back row of Wenceslas Lauret, Antonie Claasen and Baptiste Chouzenoux will be a formidable threat for Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee to battle.

There is stardust right across the back-line even with Oliivier Klemenczak – a major source of torment in Ulster’s 44-12 loss in Paris – on the bench. The eye can only be drawn to the wing where Simon Zebo has been deployed opposite Jacob Stockdale.

The Ireland star’s try-scoring record remains a trump card for Ulster. The 22-year-old is one of only two players to score four times in this season’s tournament. Trouble is, the other one is on Racing’s left wing and Juan Imhoff must be chomping at the bit to test Robert Baloucoune on his tournament debut.

Though Racing’s last European loss was a narrow one at the hands of Leinster in Bilbao, this is by no means a task beyond Ulster. They will tap into the momentum won during their 10-out-of-10, double-bonus-point-winning December feats against Scarlets and home advantage has failed them just once in the last 10 matches in this tournament.

Clermont could not find a way to dull the Kingspan roar, nor Exeter, nor Wasps, nor La Rochelle

The 1999 Heineken Cup winners will be introduced to the crowd pre-match to stir up a little extra pride in the stands in the hope of preventing Racing from following the lead of Bordeaux Begles, the last team to win away in Belfast in this tournament.

Marty Moore and Rory Best Marty Moore and Rory Best head for contact. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

With flair in abundance, they will run and attack more than their fellow Top14 side did two years ago. They will kick plenty too, either backing their line-out to challenge or forcing Ulster to create for themselves and inviting them to build phases.

Through Billy Burns, a centre combination – in Stuart McCloskey and Will Addison – who can beat defenders any which way and the long-range striking of John Cooney, Ulster are capable of delivering exactly what they have wound up to these past weeks.

A win, any win, would leave Dan McFarland’s men on at least 18 points, ideally poised to take one of the best runners-up spots in the knockout stage or perhaps even surge past Racing should they slip on consecutive weekends.


15. Louis Ludik
14. Robert Baloucoune
13. Will Addison
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Billy Burns
9.John Cooney

1. Eric O’Sullivan
2. Rory Best
3. Marty Moore
4. Alan O’Connor
5. Kieran Treadwell
6. Sean Reidy
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Marcell Coetzee


16. Rob Herring
17. Andy Warwick
18. Ross Kane
19. Ian Nagle
20. Nick Timoney
21. Dan Shanahan
22. Mike Lowry
23. Darren Cave

Racing 92

15. Brice Dulin
14. Simon Zebo
13. Virimi Vakatawa
12. Henry Chavancy
11. Juan Imhoff
10. Finn Russell
9. Mxime Machenaud

1. Guram Gogichashvili
2. Dimitri Szarzewski (Captain)
3. Ben Tameifuna
4. Bernard Le Roux
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Baptiste Chouzenoux
8. Antonie Claassen

16. Teddy Bauigny
17. Vasil Kakovin
18. Georges-Henri Colombe-Reazel
19. Brois Palu
20. Fabien Sanconnie
21. Teddy Iribarien
22. Olivier Klemenczak
23. Ben Volavola

Ahead of a huge weekend of Heineken Champions Cup action, Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey assess the provinces’ chances of putting a foot in the last eight:

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

Subscribe to our new podcast, Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42, here:

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Sean Farrell


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