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Les Kiss hoping Ulster can continue to pack a punch against Ospreys

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 04/05/2016

Ulster's back-line have grabbed plenty of headlines of late but Les Kiss' new-look pack will again have to step up come Saturday's pivotal PRO12 contest with Ospreys.

Currently sitting fourth in the table, the province travel to Swansea knowing they need to match the result of Scarlets, who play Munster in Thomond Park, to secure their place in the end of season play-offs.

Injuries have ensured they will travel with a forward unit that is hardly first-choice but Kiss' decision to utilise the twin openside strategy deployed by the likes of Australia, Wales and Scotland in the past 12 months paid dividends in the thumping 30-6 win over Leinster last Saturday.

With Iain Henderson at blindside, usual No.7s Chris Henry and Sean Reidy filled out the loose forward trio last weekend.

"We have not gone on about it but we have lost a lot of power in our forwards," said Kiss. "Nick Williams and Dan Tuohy have been out for most of the year, Wiehahn Herbst too, but the pack keep standing up.

"We made a tactical decision in terms of our selection with Chris Henry and Sean Reidy together and that paid off absolutely brilliantly for us."

On the first time that three have been selected together from the off, Henry added: "I thought it worked well. Roger Wilson is obviously a quality player but Les made the call to play two No.7s in the back-row.

"It's good to cause those issues and headaches. I certainly enjoyed it."

With Paddy Jackson pulling the strings brilliantly, Henry says the forwards want to ensure the talented No.10 has as many chances as possible to work with the ball.

"As a pack we realise that this backline is pretty lethal," he said.

"We're very lucky to have a backline like it. We want to get the ball into Paddy's hands as much as possible.

"I've seen a massive development. He's a very driven guy and he's a leader of this team now. You need your out-half to lead the team.

"How many times did (Ben) Te'o run at him? That was obviously a game plan from Leinster but he made the hit.

"He's got the skills but he's got the big heart as well to put the body on the line. We just want to get him the ball as much as possible."

One part of the game where Kiss does want to see improvement this weekend, however, is in the set-piece.

Ulster pulled away after pressurising Leinster into their second yellow card of the game in the second-half but had already lost a chance to take control with a penalty surrendered under the posts by a scrum that creaked at various stages.

"It is an area we were disappointed with, just how we started the second-half," said Kiss.

"We got the lineout which we lost, then we had the scrum under the posts which we lost and gave them access to the other end.

"It was a really disappointing start to the second-half. We are trying to challenge ourselves to actually grow for the whole tactical game and that pressure does come on top of you and how you make decisions from there to get back on the front foot and all that sort of stuff.

"I think we learned some good lessons, and we learned that we can do that, and you need to do it to be a good team."

Ospreys, who have been without star forwards Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric, received mixed injury news yesterday.

Following their six-try win over Cardiff in the Principality Stadium on Saturday, wing Hanno Dirksen has been ruled out with a serious knee ligament injury. Lock Adam Beard (leg) and prop Nicky Smith (return to play protocols) could both, however, be available.

Belfast Telegraph

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