Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Biting Back: Heineken Cup draw highlights pressure on new Ulster coach

New Ulster rugby coach Mark Anscombe now has a clearer view of the challenge ahead.

Yesterday’s draw for the 2013 Heineken Cup pitted last term’s runners-up in Pool 4 along with Northampton Saints — beaten finalists 12 months earlier — Glasgow Warriors and Castres Olympique who were Aviva Premiership, RaboDirect PRO 12 and Top 14 semi-finalists respectively last season.

Even so, the draw could have been a lot worse.

Ulster’s Director of Rugby, David Humphreys, promptly clarified the expectations of his new coach by citing emergence from the group stage and qualification for the quarter-finals as a minimum requirement.

No pressure there, then

It’s going to be a real test for New Zealander Anscombe whose predecessor, Brian McLaughlin, took Ulster to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and final in the last two of his three seasons as coach — and still ended up losing the job.

As equations go it’s a simple enough one to understand; winning equals success with nothing else counting.

Humphreys upped the ante further — and with it the pressure on his new coach — by saying that this year’s squad is better than that which lost the recent Heineken Cup showdown.

Given those circumstances, Anscombe must deliver.

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