Discipline key for Ulster, says McFarland

When Ulster last met Scarlets two weeks ago in Llanelli, they spent two-thirds of the game defending wave after wave of red jerseys charging towards their line.

Only for some remarkable big hits, included in their 251 tackles made during that onslaught, they would have been hammered more than the 29-12 scoreline that favoured the home side in that PRO14 game.

Now the Ulster squad head back to Parc y Scarlets for the first of their Champions Cup back-to-back games tomorrow evening (7.45pm) with head coach Dan McFarland’s mantra ringing in their ears.

“Discipline!” said McFarland when asked what Ulster had to do to rattle the cage of a Scarlets.

“We gave them access into our ‘22’ 15 times, nine times through penalties, and although we defended pretty well at times, you cannot give access to a team that understands what they are doing like them. You’re not going to win the game.”

Ulster have a dreadful record in Llanelli, and McFarland realises that getting the better of last season’s semi-finalists, won’t be easy, even though they have lost their opening two Pool 4 games.

Not an easy place to go, full stop. Out of 30-odd games at home over the last while, they have lost at home once, maybe twice, drawn two games and lost to Racing 92. Racing are a pretty good side, so that’s the challenge, and that’s excellent, that’s what we want. We want challenges.

McFarland has witnessed, first-hand, Scarlets’ style of running rugby, both as a player and coach.

“It’s impressive, isn’t it? They’ve put together a very talented squad, 19 internationals. They are going to be a threat to anybody. Last year, they managed to lose a couple of games in the pool, but ended up as semi-finalists.

"There’s a lot of talent there and play an exciting brand of rugby. As is always the case with any side that wants to challenge at the thick end of competitions, they are also full of guys up front, able do the business.

“So are they are not out of it yet? Absolutely not! This is a team that doesn’t lose at home. They have a very proud record which they will be battling for. It will be certainly be tough for us.”

Ulster will, however, be short of real grunt up front. Although Ireland’s Iain Henderson will be back, Alan O’Connor is out with a leg injury, as is new signing Ian Nagle, who was subsequently not added to their European Cup squad.

It means Henderson and Keiran Treadwell are the only two locks on show. Ulster are hoping Will Addsion and Billy Burns come through HIA protocols.

Scarlets will be without Leigh Halfpenny, Samson Lee, and Blade Thomson, but Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies, Jake Ball and Ken Owens return from international duty.


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