Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

French steeled for Ravenhill war of attrition

Biarritz have targeted two primary qualities as crucial to their Heineken Cup clash with Ulster at Ravenhill on Saturday.

Scrum half Dimitri Yachvili, the French club’s No1 playmaker and influence, admits his team must be at their best on both counts if they are to survive the Ravenhill cauldron.

“You have to be efficient and disciplined” said Yachvili. “You cannot afford to make mistakes in a match like this. It will probably be a very close match because we are both good teams and the incentive is very big for us both.”

Yachvili was the architect of Biarritz’s extraordinary 65-22 slaughter of Agen in the French Championship at the weekend. His livewire darts from the base of the scrums, rucks and mauls will have been carefully noted by the Ulster coaching team and players.

And the clash between Yachvili and Ruan Pienaar could be one of the highlights of the whole Heineken weekend. How does the French international rate Ulster’s South African?

“Very highly,” he said last night from his Biarritz home. “I have watched a lot of his play and he is a really brilliant player. But the Ulster forwards are also most impressive and very strong. We know this will be a very difficult match for us.”

Nor is Yachvili convinced that a 65-22 victory was the ideal preparation for a big Heineken Cup clash that is likely to be one of the closest of the day. “It was a good game for us and we scored a lot of tries,” he said.

“But I don’t know if it is good to play so well one week before the Ulster match. For sure, it was good for our confidence but we know it will not be the same in Belfast on Saturday.

“I have played at Ravenhill many times and it is always difficult there because of the fighting spirit of their players. It is always hard and very physical. They didn’t play their best game against us in France in the first Heineken match in October (Biarritz won 35-15).

“But it was the start of the season and their new players were not playing as well as they are now. It won’t be the same outcome on Saturday. And again, it will be the forwards who decide so much, as usual.”

In a tight knit match likely to develop into a war of attrition, Yachvili says discipline will inevitably be vital, saying: “We have to be very disciplined and efficient against them, we know that.”

He acknowledges, too, that Biarritz must be more consistent. “Don’t ask me why, but it is true – we can play at a very high level one week but badly the next. Sometimes when the pressure drops, we lose focus.

“But the good thing is, there will be plenty of pressure this weekend. Not just because of Ulster but because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

“We know we have to play a big, big game to win this match.”

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