Tight-head Ricky Lutton says Ulster will be focused on resolving their scrummaging worries when they take on Saracens tomorrow at Allianz Park, with Champions Cup qualification hopes on the line.
Lutton will know later today if he will be in the mix, but insists the group know where they must improve on the one-point win over Oyonnax last Sunday, when trailing 23-0 at half-time.
“We know technically where we have to be. We have to get the studs into the ground and get the feet in and work down and through our height,” said Lutton, refusing to blame any scrum malfunction on the French side’s artificial surface.
“I don’t think you can use their 3G pitch as an excuse. We train and have played on a similar one before. There were a couple of times I thought it was a genuine slip but there were also a couple of times where we got done technically and powerfully and they are the ones we are upset about.
“The Oyonnax pitch was a bit softer to the ones I played on before. I could wear a full 21mm metal stud on it which I wear on grass. There was no issue. 3G rewards sides that can get a good purchase in the ground, get their feet in the ground and can scrummage long and square.
Ulster looked good for much of the Pool 1 opener against Saracens in Belfast, then cracked up to allow the visitors chalk up a 27-9 bonus-point win. So Lutton is wary of the threat posed by the English champions.
“Saracens are the form team in Europe and they have been excellent in their four games.
“In Belfast they taught us a lesson and they have been going well in the Premiership, but they showed a bit of a chink in their armour last Saturday against Harlequins,” said Lutton who has had little chance to make progress due to injury.
“It is up to us to step up and at the minute we’re not looking at the bigger picture, it is just about taking one game at a time. We’re going over to Saracens with the view of putting in a performance and getting a result over there.
“The last time we faced Saracens, we were on top for 45 to 50 minutes and were 9-5 up. But they just came out in the second-half and controlled possession and territory and those are the kind of issues we have to look to rectify. We have to put in an 80-minute performance. We can’t afford to do what we did on Sunday and only play for a half.
“I think we have grown as a squad since then and the things that Les (Kiss) has come in and implemented are bearing fruition and I think you can’t question the character of the squad.”
Meanwhile, Jared Payne came through another testing training session and if there are no reactions to the foot injury that needed surgery after the World Cup, the Ireland centre could find himself at full-back in place of the injured Louis Ludik with Kiss keeping the industrious midfield duo of Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall.
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