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Only our best will do if we are to keep our European hopes alive: O'Connor

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 21/10/2016

Ready: Alan O’Connor says Ulster know the challenge ahead
Ready: Alan O’Connor says Ulster know the challenge ahead

Ulster's Alan O'Connor has warned that the province cannot afford to be anything but at their best when Exeter Chiefs visit Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night (7.45pm kick-off).

After surrendering a late lead against Bordeaux-Begles last weekend, Les Kiss's men need a victory against their Aviva Premiership counterparts to keep their European hopes alive and Dubliner O'Connor is under no illusions about the task.

"The European standard is top of the table. If you are playing against any good team and you are not firing on all cylinders, you're not going to win the match.

"It's a special feeling running out here and a special feeling going away to France and playing big European games. It is something you're very proud of and you just hope you can bring the goods on the day.

"We need to start well and finish well. They will be coming all guns blazing after their loss so we have to match that and take it to them."

Having dropped their Guinness PRO12 encounter to Connacht before the European opener, Ulster have lost two games in a row for only the third time in Les Kiss's tenure, with O'Connor calling for a response to the skid.

"We never plan to lose games but sometimes it just happens," said the lock. "You just have to deal with what you can control and do your job the best you can do it. Just bring it to the table and hopefully we can win.

"We have to bring that passion and pride yourself. No one likes losing and to lose in the manner we have is disappointing. You just have to man up and face up to the challenge that is coming next and go from there."

With the Chiefs having found their rolling maul to be a potent weapon throughout their domestic season, O'Connor and his fellow forwards will have to be in a combative mood.

British and Irish Lion Geoff Parling - who injured a knee just three minutes into his last visit to Belfast with the Leicester Tigers - is key to the set-piece and O'Connor recognises that limiting the 32-year-old's influence will be key.

"He's experienced definitely," said the Skerries man. "He's been around the block about three times so hopefully we can do a job on him and hopefully stop him playing. Hopefully that stops the pack playing.

"They like their maul and they bring tempo to their play and you just have to stop that and stem it at source.

"They have a couple of good backs as well so, like us, they like keeping width to their play too, so we have to deal with that as well.

"We have our systems in play to deal with what they are going to be throwing at us.

"We just have to do our jobs the best we can and hopefully that will stem it.

"We take pride in our defence, hopefully we can get off the line and get the spacing right because they play with width, we just have to man up and hit them back behind the gain line."

Belfast Telegraph

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