Ulster head coach Dan McFarland is looking for more of the same from his troops when Scarlets come to Belfast looking for revenge on Friday night.
McFarland oversaw one of the great away performances from Ulster who effectively sent the Welsh side crashing out of the Champions Cup with an incredible display last weekend. It was as near an all-round perfect performance as any coach would wish for. Now McFarland wants the same intensity, and most importantly, the speed of mind and body that saw them claim a 25-24 victory, which leaves them second in Pool 4, five points behind Racing 92.
But just how do you go about replicating such a performance? “As a team, we want to play with collective speed. If I am going to define that, it means that all 15 players are all playing in sync at a pace higher than the opposition,” explained McFarland.
“It takes a very strong group of people to be able to do that and understand what their roles are. They must understand that they are bouncing to their feet in defence, getting back into the line, and working for each other when there are mistakes. We have a really strong leadership group. The guys always have feedback for me. They take things on board and they run with them. And that helps.”
But he knows well the challenges of facing the same team twice in the space of one week. “The back-to-back games in the Heineken Champions Cup are an interesting dynamic, and when you win away from home in round three, there are a number of things we have to be careful of. We have to understand that a great fan base, and stadium, does not win a rugby game for you. Then the second thing is that Scarlets are a really good side, and they will be hurting after losing at home. They will be expecting to come and be dangerous and prepare accordingly. It was interesting there were five away victories last weekend, so winning at home is not a given right.”
McFarland also praised the young Dublin native Eric O’Sullivan, the 23-year-old loose-head who played the full 80 minutes last week.
“He had an exceptional game,” said McFarland. “Over the summer the lads enjoyed training with him. I saw a big engine in him. He’s a fella’ who can go for 80 minutes. He made 22 tackles which was more than anybody else. He will chase kicks like a back-rower, he will get in support of line breaks like a scrum-half. He has an unbelievable capacity for work, which is terrific. There are plenty of the nuts and bolts of his game which he has to improve, he is by no means the finished article yet, but he certainly is a good prospect.”