Ulster coach Dan McFarland is hoping that Premiership side Leicester’s record at Ravenhill continues in the same vein when the two cross swords when the Heineken Cup kicks off this weekend.
The Pool 4 clash at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday sees two former European champions meet. Ulster are unbeaten against the Tigers at home. They thumped a Tigers side led by England skipper Martin Johnson 33-0 in the 2003/4 season, while seven years ago the Irish province won 41-7, when the current Edinburgh boss Richard Cockerill was the embarrassed head coach.
But Ulster come into Saturday’s game on the back of two interprovincial reverses and McFarland is aware of the challenge.
This is a new day. Two new teams, different coaches, different players, history counts for nothing,” said McFarland.
“They will be coming here confident. They bring a strong forward pack and bring some extremely exciting backs and if you do not shackle them you will be in trouble in both aspects, simple as that.
“They did not start the season well, albeit they were scoring points, but they have shored up that in the last two games. They are beginning to find a little bit of form. We are expecting a really good challenge here.”
Ulster’s struggles this season means there is virtually no honeymoon period for McFarland in the Ravenhill hot-seat. Ulster’s tight five has creaked this season, and the Ulster scrum will be tested against a ferocious unit of the Tigers.
“We’ve got a couple of young and inexperienced props, so that’s isn’t a quick fix, it never is,” explained McFarland, himself a more than useful exponent on the front-row dark arts with Connacht and the Wolfhounds.
Those props play because they’ve earned their place in the team and the squad, they’re excellent rugby players. They are going to learn as they go along. But hard lessons like that are brilliant. When I was playing, I had a few of those, I can tell you. You learn fast from them. So there are certain things that we can do in a week to make sure we are better this week.
Despite Ulster’s recent failures, they are still second in the PRO14 possession stakes, but McFarland knows that they will have to take all the chances that come their way on Saturday.
“We want to play. We’re not in the business of sitting back and letting opposition do their stuff. That’s our philosophy we want to play at speed, we want to play with the ball. So it’s good we have the possession, so must be able to make it count as well.
“If we are creating opportunities, we also must be able to finish them.”