Belfast Telegraph

The Ulstermen need to be kings of the road, warns Kiss

By Michael Sadlier

As if things weren't hard enough after defeat to Leinster at the RDS, Ulster are now facing yet another trip to a ground which has brought them precious little solace in recent years.

One win from their last six visits to Parc y Scarlets in all competitions - they did manage to draw in September 2014 - is not a particularly uplifting record as Les Kiss and his under-pressure squad go in search of a win to keep them in touch with the season's baseline requirement of securing a top four finish.

Ulster slipped to sixth after the weekend's results - though they have that game in hand at home to Zebre - and are four points behind the Scarlets whose hard-earned home victory over Cardiff Blues earned the west Wales side their foothold in the play-off spots, though Glasgow Warriors are on equal points but have one less win.

And with only three wins outside the Kingspan Stadium this season, over the course of eight games in both the PRO12 and Europe, Kiss has admitted that Ulster have to up their game when on their travels to add to the results already secured at Treviso, Glasgow and Cardiff.

"We have to improve it (the away record) and that starts against Scarlets," he explained of Ulster's first outing of 2017 on Friday.

"It is one of the harder ones and top three away games that we don't have a lot of joy from," he added - though, clearly, this is a fixture which Ulster have targeted as one they need to nail before signing off ahead of the final two weekends of European pool action.

And with qualification for the last eight in the Champions Cup not looking that likely, chasing a PRO12 semi-final - preferably at home from somehow managing a top two finish though the Ospreys, currently in second, are already 12 ahead - is clearly becoming the season's priority.

"If you win your homes, and half your away games, then you've a really good chance," Kiss explained.

"We'll have some boys back," he stated with Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson all expected to return for Friday after being stood down at Leinster last Saturday due to the national game management plan while Craig Gilroy could be fit again after injury.

"A few less injuries would be fine and we then manage to start winning away," he added.

Again, though, Ulster will be contending with a shortened lead-in due to Monday's Ireland camp but that is probably still better than the situation at the Scarlets as they have a five-day turnaround following Sunday's clash with Cardiff.

"We haven't got much preparation," Kiss explained.

"But we knew that beforehand and it's similar to the Connacht preparation. But, look, we need to go over there (to the Scarlets) and do a job."

Ulster do, of course, have real concerns over the number of fit tight-head props around the place as Rodney Ah You appears to have joined Wiehahn Herbst and Ricky Lutton in the treatment room.

That leaves only Jonny Simpson - who made his debut off the bench at Leinster and can operate on both sides of the scrum - and the hopefully returning Ross Kane seemingly able to play at the Scarlets while Andy Warwick will likely be needed on the loose-head side now that Kyle McCall is crocked.

Anyway, another loss would be badly damaging ahead of their next set of PRO12 games during the Six Nations.

"We have not been that good with our away results, but in certain patches of those games we knew there was a capacity to do more," said Kiss.

They sure could do with something special on Friday.

Belfast Telegraph

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