Ulster will look to take a giant leap towards the knockout stages in Belfast tonight as they look to complete back-to-back victories over Scarlets.
While Ulster are not the finished article, they appear to be on the right track in getting their act together in the wake of last season’s meltdown.
Scarlets come to town looking for revenge for last week’s Heineken Champions Cup defeat in Llanelli. Ulster’s 23-man squad is unchanged from the side which secured a bonus point from last week.
With Simon Zebo and Racing 92 rolling up in Belfast on January 12, Ulster know they need to get the job done against he Welsh region tonight. Ulster’s final pool game is the following week against Geordan Murphy’s struggling Tigers outfit and an away victory at Welford Road would likely see Ulster finish as one of top runners-up and progress to the knockout stages for the first time in five years.
There appears to be a verve about Ulster at Kingspan Stadium. A change of management does make players initially jump higher, run faster, tackle harder. But it takes something a little bit more to get that forward momentum. It’s 20 seasons since Ulster’s lone European Cup success, and the last time Ulster reached the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup was in 2014.
Head coach Dan McFarland appears to be bringing together a squad of international experience and youthful exuberance and there’s more than a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Certainly the Scarlets were shocked last week at Ulster’s tactics and the pace of their game. That’s something that Springbok number 8 Marcell Coetzee hopes to see continue this evening.
“Now we just have to match what we did, and add a little bit extra. Scarlets are hurting and they will be hungry for it. I think at the moment there is a really good buzz in the team.
“But our main focus this week will be about being consistent.”