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We need to be quick out of traps, insists Allen Clarke

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 05/02/2016

Ulster forwards coach Allen Clarke has said the side must provide an 80 minute performance against Dragons at Kingspan Stadium this evening (7.35pm kick-off) if they are to end the day sitting atop the Pro12 standings.

The province were sluggish off the blocks against Treviso last weekend before ultimately securing a bonus point win and, with the memory of a 23-0 half-time deficit in Oyonnax last month fresh in the mind, the European Cup winning hooker wants to see his side perform from first whistle to last tonight.

"An 80 minute performance is important for us," he said.

"It's not something that we've made a big deal about because there have been plenty of performances this year where we've gone off well in the first-half.

"You can read too much into things after two games, it's not enough evidence at the minute to say we're slow starters.

"We've got to look at our approach to the game, and how we go about backing ourselves right from the off, controlling the things that we can control in the game.

"We've got to play at the tempo that we desire to play with and train to play with.

"For us to come back with a bonus point win last week is significant but we want to get the rewards of that by getting to the top of the table this week.

"We want the rest of the sides chasing us. Dragons are a dangerous side.

"They're coming off the back of a good result against Leinster and a good performance. They're coming over here with confidence.

"When we played them over there, it was a tough battle, it was a tight enough scoreline."

Upon retirement, Clarke was integral in setting up the Ulster Academy, and also worked as Elite Performance Manager from 2012 to 2014, and is thrilled to see the fruits of that labour making a real impact in the senior side.

Jacob Stockdale, who starts at wing tonight, and back-rower Lorcan Dow were the latest to make their debuts last week with Clarke feeling the young players in the squad have provided a real lift this season.

"I think it's brilliant," he enthused. "It's refreshing for everybody.

"For us as coaches, that willingness to learn is fantastic but also the quality that they're bringing in.

"To see Jacob and Lorcan make their debuts on Saturday and the quality that they delivered is fantastic.

"It's a good message to the young men that haven't made their debuts yet that they're not too far away from it and that's been relayed to them also.

"If you do the hard yards, and if you're a good professional, as you want to be in any walk of life, then you'll make progress.

"We want them to be aspiring to be starters here and aspiring to the national team.

"I think on Saturday we had 21 players who were eligible to play for Ireland in the squad which is fantastic."

One young player who will not be continuing at Kingspan is Sammy Arnold after it was announced yesterday he will join Munster next season.

The English-born, Irish-qualified 19-year-old has made 11 appearances with Ulster since debuting last year but, given the province's wealth of centre options, a regular starting berth was considered to be some way off.

"It was a difficult decision but given Ulster's depth of talent in midfield, I feel it's the right time for me to make the move," said the under-20 international.

Belfast Telegraph

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