Ulster will make some changes to the side which dramatically earned a last-gasp draw with Munster for the province’s final regular season Pro12 game at Glasgow Warriors on Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Neil Doak said that with a semi-final place guaranteed, it was “only sensible” to look to rotate a little while still very much hoping that a win in Scotland, and results elsewhere, could earn a home game in the play-offs.
“I honestly think there may be a little nervousness in the other three camps — Glasgow, Ospreys and Munster — about securing a home semi-final, and if we go to Scotstoun and play as well as we can, and as well as we did when we beat the Warriors here in Belfast in October, then you never know how the play-off scenario will look.”
Doak will wait until this afternoon for formal news, but he appears to accept that Iain Henderson’s red card against Munster will almost certainly rule the Irish flanker out. But he feels he has the resources to deal with that back-row loss.
“We can report a reasonably good bill of health, Darren Cave is over his knock from the Munster game, prop Callum Black is making good progress, though Wiehann Herbst is a concern,” he said of the impressive Springbok prop.
“I think we can go to Glasgow and get a win, and play in the way we’d like. Maintaining good performance levels at this stage of the season is important.
“Getting to this point with the prospect of two more games, and the chance of winning a trophy, has got the management and the players buzzing. It’s what we have been aiming for, and it’s what the fans deserve, and to play the final at the Kingspan would be just the dream end to a good year.”
Doak expressed himself very happy with how his players responded to last summer’s backroom turmoil, and believes that the injury problems which ruled out Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble for long periods have only forged an even stronger character in the squad.
“We’ll wait and see what happens in Munster and in Connacht, who play the Ospreys, but we hope we’ll end up with a home semi, but whatever happens we the intend to be in decider at the end of the month in front of a support which has been superb,” he said.
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