Belfast Telegraph

Battling Ulster get Euro buzz

By Niall Crozier

Ulster’s rugby players today started their preparation for Saturday’s crunch Heineken Cup clash against Italian outfit Aironi knowing that, thanks to a result in Glasgow yesterday, they are a step closer to a quarter-final place.

Ulster kept their knockout dreams alive by beating Biarritz 9-6 at Ravenhill at the weekend.

That took Brian McLaughlin’s side level on points with the French in Pool 4, meaning a final day shoot-out for automatic qualification for the last eight, with Ulster taking on Aironi in Italy and Biarritz hosting Bath.

Effectively whoever gains the best result between Ulster and the French will top their group.

Ulster would have settled for that after losing early on in the campaign to Biarritz, but the prospects of qualification became even better for Ian Humphreys and co thanks to Glasgow Warriors defeating Wasps 20-10 yesterday.

Ultimately, thanks to that defeat for Wasps, victory for Ulster, regardless of how well Biarritz do against Bath, will see Ulster qualify for the quarter-finals as pool winners or as one of the two best placed runners-up.

“If I’m reading things properly, then that Wasps result puts the possibility of qualification for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup back in our hands,” said Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin.

“It also means that if we beat Aironi in the final game of the group stage next Saturday, then Bath — if they were to beat Biarritz — could still make it into the knockout stages, so they will have that incentive.”

He added: “But we have to concentrate on our own situation, get a result and then see where that takes us.”

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