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Coach Clarke urging Ulster on to the quarter-finals

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 18/12/2015

Ulster forwards coach Allen Clarke believes the team must take something from this Sunday's Champions Cup rematch with Toulouse if they are to mount a serious challenge for a spot in the quarter-finals.

A win of any kind would put Ulster on at least nine points in Pool 1, with Top 14 cellar-dwellers Oyonnax still to play twice either side of a trip to Saracens, and while Mark McCall's outfit seem odds-on to claim top spot, it would put the province in a good position to claim one of the knockout places awarded to the three best runners-up.

"The focus is on Toulouse, we've got to get something from that," said Clarke, who was Ulster's hooker when they were crowned kings of Europe back in 1999.

"The state of play in the rest of the group could then make that Saracens away game into something quite significant.

"When you look at the other groups, you're starting to see that there are opportunities to get through the back door."

Les Kiss' men demolished the four-time champions at Kingspan a week ago but Clarke is keen to emphasise that the team expect a wholly different challenge in the south of France this weekend.

Toulouse's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals appear all but over barring a clean sweep in their last three games but, even with Ugo Mola's side facing a crucial league clash against Toulon next weekend, Clarke thinks their focus will be on righting the wrongs of the trip to Belfast.

"If you look at the first match, Ugo Mola made the point that in almost all aspects of the game, Ulster had been successful," he said.

"I know if that was us, losing away from home and inviting the same team back the next week, how we would react to that.

"We recognise what it took to build that performance. We need to do better this week.

"There are aspects that we know that we can improve but that provides us with great enthusiasm and excitement.

"We've got players who are buzzing, who are buying into how they're being challenged but also the empowerment that they're being afforded in that challenge.

"They're going over there with the appetite to get the points. We respect the challenge but we're backing ourselves."

ULSTER'S postponed Guinness PRO12 home game with the Newport Gwent Dragons has been rearranged for Friday, February 5 with kick-off time at 7.35pm.

The match, which will be shown on BBCNI, was moved from its original date of Friday, January 8 so Ulster could play their Champions Cup game with Oyonnax that weekend after it had been postponed due to the Paris terror attacks.

Ulster meet Oyonnax on Sunday, January 10. Meanwhile, Ulster's PRO12 clash with Treviso, on Saturday, January 30, will now kick-off 5pm GMT with BBCNI again providing coverage.

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