Belfast Telegraph

Biting Back: No substitute for top quality signings

By Ali Gordon

Replacements always cause problems. Just look at Liverpool for example.

Last season’s Premier League title chasers can realistically only dream of a top-five finish in the absence of Luis Suarez this season as boss Brendan Rodgers continues on in pursuit of a working formula for the Reds without their star striker.

A lack of suitable replacements certainly hasn’t worked for Ulster Rugby either.

2012 was very nearly the dream year for the men in white. They reached the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham, albeit to be hammered 42-12 by Leinster, to prove that they were up there with the best.

Coach Brian McLaughlin did not have his contract renewed at the end of the 2011/12 season though, despite Ulster’s brilliant season. The powers that be wanted a coach to take the club to the next level — but so far no-one has.

Director of Rugby David Humphreys’ departure to Gloucester came as a massive shock to many but he wasn’t the club’s only big change in the last year.

Ulster lost coach Mark Anscombe alongside a host of top players, including Johann Muller and John Afoa.

Last month Stephen Ferris argued: “If Ulster want to compete with the best, they have to bring in big names year in, year out.”

And he’s right. “When you lose four or five stars and bring in one or two you won’t cut it,” added the former Lions star.

With the game against Toulon only days away, let’s hope that Ulster can prove that they’re still able to compete up there with the best, even without the big name signings.

Belfast Telegraph

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