PREVIEW: Ulster V Connacht

23 December 2021

PREVIEW: Ulster V Connacht
Senior coach Pete Wilkins says he expects an exciting game of Rugby when Connacht visit Ulster in a United Rugby Championship interprovincial on St. Stephens' Day. 



The northern province are sure to be in buoyant form after consecutive European wins, including a huge victory away to Clermont Auvergne, and will be looking to extend their good run in front of their home fans.



Wilkins believes that Ulster, who will be looking for revenge after the Westerners defeated them 36-11 in their last meeting at the Aviva Stadium two months ago, will pose a different challenge to Connacht's last two opponents -- Stade Francais and Leicester -- but the clash of the two attacking teams should make for an entertaining fixture.




“Yeah, you wouldn’t expect as much kicking(as the Stade Francais or Leicester games). Certainly, when we previewed them for the game earlier in the season in the Aviva and leading into this one, we would expect them to run the ball more, whether that’s in their half of the field or ours," the Englishman said when asked whether Dan McFarland's men's style would contrast with the kind of tactics the Westerners have recently faced. 



“At the same time, they have very strong kickers, particularly off 9 in terms of Cooney and Doak, they got two guys there who may not kick as much as others teams, but when they do they are very effective with those contestable kicks and they look to apply pressure, if not in the air then certainly in the ruck and they will look to squeeze us there. 



“There are some similarities in their ability to squeeze the opposition team when they kick the ball to them, like Leicester, but certainly in terms of what they want to do with the ball, it’s a different profile."



In the teams' last meeting, on October 23rd at the Aviva Stadium, Connacht won thanks to a high tempo, attacking game plan. Wilkins believes this could provide the blueprint for another win, but with some slight alterations to the game plan.



“For us, it helps that we played them recently, in terms of us having really good familiarity with the game plan that we think worked well last time, and obviously we’ll look to make some tweaks to that this time, but at the same time try and reproduce the good bits from it. 



“But at the same time, it’s also recent enough in their memories that it will only fuel their fires to exact revenge. I think it promises to be a really good match-up and a really exciting game of Rugby."




Meanwhile, back John Porch has praised the environment of up-skilling at Connacht and the hunger of the players to learn and improve their skillsets.



The Westerners, who endeavor to play with attacking verve and pace, are known to operate with a quick, skill-based game plan with all players -- backs and forwards -- contributing to attacking phases.



The Australian credits Pete Wilkins and Mossy Lawler not only -- the senior coach and assistant attack and skills coach -- with creating a game plan that allows the players to express themselves in attack, but also with helping individuals sharpen up their skills on the training pitch.


  “Pete Wilkins has done a really good job and Mossy Lawler has done a really good job on the attack," Porch said.



"We’re trying to play an exciting brand of Rugby but it comes with a lot of intricacies and we’re really working hard in training to make sure that every week when we go out there we’re doing the stuff correctly to be able to play that style of Rugby. It’s entertaining for the outside, but it’s also entertaining for the people on the outside. 


“It’s all combined, yeah. It’s individual, it’s players working with coaches, players working with other players; building combinations, working on stuff that might be a little bit of a weakness for you, so when you go out there at the weekend, that sort of up-tempo, high-speed Rugby we want to play works for us.”