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Ulster count cost of bonus point win over Southern Kings

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

There were mixed emotions for Head Coach Dan McFarland as Ulster secured five points against the Southern Kings on Saturday night at the Kingspan Stadium.

The win puts Ulster into second place behind Leinster in Conference B, however the loss of Louis Ludik, Marty Moore and Darren Cave adds to the growing list of injury woes ahead of Saturday’s huge European Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster.

Saturday’s fresh injuries leave Ulster depleted in midfield, with Luke Marshall still not fully fit following an ACL injury and James Hume ruled out after breaking his ankle in training last week.

“I have got to wait and see but you saw the same as me and it did not look good,” said McFarland of fullback Louis Ludik’s injury after he was helped off the pitch by the medical team just nine minutes into the game.

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“It’s still too early to tell but we will have to assess the injuries and see how Louis is and how Darren is. Obviously James (Hume) is out. We’ll have a look at Lukey and see how he’s going on.”

McFarland joked he may have to call upon former Ireland centre and Ulster’s defence coach, Jared Payne, to fill the gap in midfield.

“Jared Payne’s wondering whether he should play, but we’re saying definitely not – you’ve had your chance,” laughed McFarland.

On a more positive note, McFarland praised Ulster number eight, Marcell Coetzee on his return to action from a hamstring injury sustained in the last European outing against the Leicester Tigers.

“It was good to have him back and he went well tonight. Marcell’s been a strong performer for us this year and it was disappointing for him and us that he hasn’t been able to play this last while but it was great to see him back out there and at his bullish self.”

Despite some superb individual performances, McFarland reflected on his sides rustiness and tendency to turn the ball over or cough it up at crucial moments. Indeed, although the win was somewhat spluttering, Ulster ran in 5 tries tuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Robert Baloucoune, Marcell Coetzee and John Andrew.

The front row did well – Herring was dynamic in his ball carrying and was solid at the set-piece. Andy Warwick put in a serious shift, tackling well can carrying over the hard yards. It was reassuring too, to see Herbst come on at loose-head and create issues for the King’s scrum.

Rob Lyttle looked dangerous in attack, squeezing his way through the King’s defence on a number of occasions – enough to earn him the man of the match award. Michael Lowry and Bobby Baloucoune are improving with every game they play and hardly put a foot wrong. Stuart McCloskey will have divided opinion – his size and power were a definite asset to Ulster however, his once frustrating habit of forcing offloads has now seemingly turned into an inability to pass. He took his try remarkably well however, and remains an important focal point of Ulster’s attack, often drawing in several defenders.

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Saturday’s win completes an impressive run in the PRO14 for Ulster, taking 21 points from a possible 25. Ulster now have three games remaining in the PRO14 with away games against Glasgow and Edinburgh, and a home fixture with Leinster.

“In the forefront of our minds is that we have to go to Glasgow and Edinburgh with their Scottish internationals back and we have the best team in Europe in the last game of the season, so we’re under no illusions to the size of the task ahead of us,” said McFarland.

“But we’ve put ourselves into the position that we said we wanted to be in.”

Of course, Ulster’s focus will now change swiftly to Saturday’s Champion’s Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster at the Aviva stadium against defending champions Leinster. Although it is hoped Ulster’s fourth consecutive PRO14 win will give Ulster significant momentum ahead of this weekend, McFarland notes that, while Leinster rested a number of key players in their game against Edinburgh this weekend, that was a luxury Ulster could not afford.

“I think it is a question of the context,” he said. “Leinster are top, so in the context of the conference itself it does not matter even if it obviously matters to them that they lost in Edinburgh and they’ll be disappointed in that. They were able to rest a lot of their players.”

“We are in a different position, we are in a ridiculously difficult conference where there is a fight going on and we needed to make sure that we got the maximum points. We do not have as big a squad, guys step up and they play.”

Despite some excellent performances this season, particularly in the Champions Cup competition, McFarland is confident Ulster have a lot more to offer. Indeed, Ulster will now focus their preparation on producing a memorable performance on Saturday against Leinster, who are considered by many to be strong favourites.

“We have put in some good performances in Europe already, but recently we have not strung together a really good 80 minutes yet. In order to win next week we will. There is literally no doubt about that.”

“We will have to be at our best,” added McFarland.

Indeed, Ulster will require an exceptional performance to challenge this great Leinster side.  It is worth bearing in mind Leinster have injury problems of their own – Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner and Josh van der Flier are all expected absent and several players will still be reeling from Ireland’s six nations capitulation.

For Ulster, finding a centre partner for Stuart McCloskey will be crucial as will proving the fitness of Marty Moore ahead of Saturday – the pack’s cornerstone. Given the sizeable Leinster contingent in this squad, Ulster’s ‘blue streak’ will have a point to prove in Dublin this Saturday.

In the words of Sportscaster Al Michaels, ‘Do you believe in miracles? YES!’

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS:


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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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News

Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

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Edinburgh snap up Tigers lock

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Lock Carmichael joins from Tigers

Edinburgh Rugby today secured the signing of promising 20-year-old Leicester Tigers lock Rob Carmichael on a three-year deal.

The 6ft 11in second-row arrived in the capital today on an initial loan until the end of the season, before the long-term move becomes permanent this summer.

Carmichael was born and raised in Hong Kong after his Scottish father, and English/Welsh mother, emigrated to Asia just under 30 years ago. He came through the ranks at Sandy Bay RFC before the family returned to the UK in 2019.

That year he joined the Tigers academy, making two Premiership Cup appearances alongside representing England U20, remaining eligible for Scotland by ancestry.

On joining Edinburgh Rugby, Carmichael said: “This is a massive move for me and an incredible opportunity I’ve been given. I’m delighted to join and I’m really glad I’ve been able to make the move to Edinburgh early on loan. I’ve only heard great things about the club.

“I’ve wanted to live in Scotland my whole life so I’m glad I’m able to make the move now. Edinburgh is an incredible city, while my parents and whole extended family are really excited that I’ve joined a Scottish club.”

Combining education with an academy contract at Tigers, Carmichael played BUCS Super Rugby at University of Nottingham where he studied Sports Science.

The towering lock was named in the England U20 squad for the 2023 U20 Six Nations where he featured in all five fixtures for the Red Roses.

Carmichael continued: “I’ve got a lot to learn about Edinburgh. I’ve only visited a couple of times but everything I’ve heard about the city and the club has been really positive. I couldn’t be more excited to move up.

“I think it’s going to be great for my development and I can’t wait to learn off the experienced second-rows at the club. I just want to add as much as I can to the team and see how much I can improve as a player. I know I’ve got loads to learn.”

Carmichael linked up with the club’s senior squad today as preparations continue for Edinburgh Rugby’s next BKT United Rugby Championship match against Ospreys at Hive Stadium on Friday 1 March.

Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach Sean Everitt said: “We’re delighted to welcome Rob [Carmichael] to the club. He’s a player with great raw ability who has all the physical tools to succeed at the next level.

“We’ve been looking at Rob for a while given his Scotland links and we’re thankful to Tigers who’ve released him on an initial loan. He’ll be able to get his feet in the door and hit the ground running ahead of joining on a long-term deal this summer.”

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Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales

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Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales

4 minutes ago

Fixture News

Head Coach, Dan McFarland, has named his Ulster side to take on the Ospreys at Swansea.com Stadium in Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

The province returns to action in the URC for the first time since defeating league leaders, Leinster Rugby, at the RDS Arena on New Year’s Day.

Ireland internationals Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Tom Stewart and Nick Timoney are back with the team, following their release from the Ireland team’s Guinness Six Nations camp.

The experienced front row sees Andrew Warwick start at loosehead, with John Andrew at hooker and Marty Moore starting at tighthead prop.

In the second row, Academy products, Harry Sheridan and skipper Iain Henderson, pair up as Ulster’s locks.

The back row sees David McCann start at blindside flanker. Marcus Rea starts at openside flanker, with Ireland international, Nick Timoney, starting at eight, as Ulster aim to win the battle at the breakdown in Swansea.

McFarland opts for the talented half-back pairing of Nathan Doak at scrum-half and Jake Flannery at ten.

Jacob Stockdale returns from international camp to start on the left wing as he hopes to continue his try-scoring form, with the winger having dotted down six tries this season in the URC so far.

The young and dynamic centre partnership sees Jude Postlethwaite join James Hume in the engine room of the backfield.

Mike Lowry starts on the right wing, with Will Addison completing the backfield at full-back.

Ulster can call on a wealth of talent and experience from the bench, with a 5:3 split that features a two time Rugby World Cup winner and a current Ireland international.

Tom Stewart is named on the bench as he returns from Ireland duty for the match.

Springbok prop, Steven Kitshoff, is named alongside Scott Wilson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, Dave Shanahan, Luke Marshall and Ethan McIlroy to complete Ulster’s replacement options.

Ospreys v Ulster, Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship, Sunday 18 February, 3pm, Swansea.com Stadium (live on ViaPlay and URC.tv).

With the URC celebrating the people and communities behind the professional players competing in the league through its Origin Round this week, Ulster Rugby recognises the important role of clubs and schools in player development, with 11 of this weekend’s starting 15 having come through the Ulster pathway.

(15-9) Will Addison (Upper Eden RFC), Mike Lowry (Dromore RFC), James Hume (Instonians RFC), Jude Postlethwaite (Lisburn RFC), Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch RFC), Jake Flannery (Kilfeacle RFC), Nathan Doak (Lisburn RFC);

(1-8) Andrew Warwick (Ballymena RFC), John Andrew (Ballymena RFC), Marty Moore (Barnhall RFC), Harry Sheridan (Civil Service RFC), Iain Henderson (C) (Belfast Academy RFC), David McCann (Cooke RFC), Marcus Rea (Ballymena RFC), Nick Timoney (Blackrock RFC).

Replacements: Tom Stewart (Belfast Academy RFC), Steven Kitshoff (Maties RFC), Scott Wilson (Dromore RFC), Cormac Izuchukwu (Tullamore RFC), Matty Rea (Ballymena RFC), Dave Shanahan (Clontarf RFC), Luke Marshall (Ballymena RFC), Ethan McIlroy (Ballynahinch RFC).

For more info on #GrassrootsToGreatness, visit the URC website.

*For the URC Origin Round, details of each player’s first club are listed above.

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby


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