Ulster know what to expect from Harlequins in general and their front-five talisman Joe Marler in particular when the Champions Cup resumes this weekend.
England international Marler’s exuberant changing-room celebrations after Quins’ narrow league win over Gloucester last weekend was typical of a prop who likes to lead by example in deed and word.
“He (Marler) will be doing all the chatting,” smiled Ulster lock Alan O’Connor. “He is a great player and a big man for them so hopefully we deal well with him.
“They will want to get good ball from the set piece so that will be a big focus for us.” Ulster are in good form and confident after two wins from two away to Bath and home to Clermont.
Harlequins were thrashed 53-21 by Clermont first day out before beating Bath in round two.
“That’s two good teams they’re after putting to the sword, Bath in Europe and Gloucester in the league, and they are way more organised than when we last played them two years ago.
“They have a real work-rate in that front five. Even though they’re big men, they work their socks off.” Meanwhile, the departure of outgoing Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has been swiftly followed by team manager Paul Dean, who announced yesterday he has stepped down.
Things have come full circle for Dean, who played for Ireland in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, by ending his involvement with the national side after the recent World Cup in Japan. Dean replaced Mick Kearney in the role following the November internationals in 2016, and cited three big wins in 2018 as the obvious highlights.
“I have enjoyed working with all the team, management, players and administrators at the IRFU for the past three seasons,” he said.
“The Grand Slam, the victory in Australia and the home win over New Zealand are obvious stand-out moments, but even when things were not going our way it was a privilege to work alongside this great team of people.”
He wished new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell well, adding: “Over the past few weeks I have concluded that as the team enters another four-year cycle, to France 2023, it is time for me to step away”.