Allen Clarke: Ulster focus solely on Saracens

Ulster’s assistant coach Allen Clarke believes last week’s postponement of the Champions Cup opener in Oyonnax will not compromise the side’s psyche in the lead up to Friday’s big clash with Premiership leaders Saracens at the Kingspan Stadium.

Allen Clarke: Ulster focus solely on Saracens

“We were well primed for last week’s game and the boys were disappointed at the game being called off.

“However, when you look at the atrocity, and that unfolding tragedy unfolded in Paris, everybody realised that rugby was very much secondary to what took place on Friday. So we are just glad to get back home safe,” said the former Ireland hooker.

“Yes, of course from a rugby point of view, it was a missed opportunity leading into what will be a massive contest this Friday night.

We have no injuries and are well conditioned and in a good physical state. So far we have heard nothing of the rearranged game; we are like everyone else waiting to hear from EPCR when that will be.

“Again, there has not been an awful lot of chit-chat about that during the week, but more about this Friday night.

“We have trained tremendously well since our return and mentally we have an added incentive on what will be our first game in Europe to now be in front of our home crowd at the Kingspan.

“So we want to give our support something to shout about, deliver a performance where everyone involved in Ulster rugby can be satisfied.”

Clarke said Ulster have moved on from that infamous 17-15 quarter-final defeat at Ravenhill 18 months ago, when they were reduced to 14 men after only five minutes, when Jared Payne was red-carded for what was deemed a dangerous tackle.

“What’s been interesting is the history between the two clubs over the last number of years. We have tremendous respect for Saracens who have preformed so well in Europe over the past four seasons.

“Yes they knocked us out in the quarters a few seasons ago and it was a tight one at the end. But we haven’t spoken a lot about that. We are living in the here and now and focused on Friday night.”

Clarke will be coming up against his fellow Ulster 1999 European Cup winner Mark McCall, who has been head coach of Saracens since 2009.

“I haven’t spoken to Mark for a three or four weeks now, but I will be texting him this week so say ‘here we go again’. I’ve given him no abuse yet,” laughs Clarke.

“I’ve tremendous respect for Mark. He’s done tremendously well and I think we should all congratulate him on his success.

“Obviously I’m not working closely with him, but I know from speaking to him, he is still a competitive individual and has good values and knowledge of the game.”

Clarke will be coming up against his fellow Ulster 1999 European Cup winner Mark McCall, who has been head coach of Saracens since 2009.

“I haven’t spoken to Mark for a three or four weeks now, but I will be texting him this week so say ‘here we go again’. I’ve given him no abuse yet,” laughs Clarke.

“I’ve tremendous respect for Mark. He’s done tremendously well and I think we should all congratulate him on his success.

“Obviously I’m not working closely with him, but I know from speaking to him, he is still a competitive individual and has good values and knowledge of the game.”

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