Belfast Telegraph

Frozen out Ulster are desperate for Bath time

By Ciaran Donaghy

Ulster are pulling out all the stops to make sure Saturday's crucial lunchtime Heineken Cup clash with Bath at Ravenhill beats the big freeze.

Brian McLaughlin's men are currently third in Pool Four, a point behind the English Premiership side and four points adrift of leaders Biarritz and anything other than a win against Bath would almost certainly spell an end to making the last eight of the competition.

Ulster have already been frustrated by the cold snap as last Friday's Magners League game had to be postponed but with the financial penalties and implications greater for calling off a Heineken Cup game, the powers at Ravenhill are keen to stage Saturday's showdown.

Ulster would face a big fine if they were not to stage the game over the weekend and as a result alternatives to Ravenhill are being looking at with Donnybrook in Dublin being touted as a possibility although that would also cause problems as it's capacity is lower than Ulster's home.

Ulster are hoping for a sell out but if the game was switched it would cause problems as Donnybrook only holds 6,000 fans less than half of the 12,300 that Ravenhill can facilitate. An army of volunteers have been helping the ground staff at Ravenhill by shovelling the snow of the pitch. Also Ulster captain Rory Best has come to the rescue by providing straw from his farm which will be laid on the pitch and act as insulation against the cold and snow.

Industrial blow heaters are also being considered but they would have to be brought over from England at considerable cost.

At this stage and with the weather set to break near the weekend Ulster are hopeful the game will go ahead as scheduled.

On the pitch last weekend's rest should mean coach Brian McLaughlin will have a full strength squad to pick from with the exception of Best who is still nursing a fractured cheek which he suffered in Ireland's defeat to the All Blacks.

Former South African captain Johann Muller is expected to recover from the neck injury he picked up in the bonus point win at Cardiff while loose forward Robbie Diack is also fit again after he suffered up an ankle injury in the same game.

Belfast Telegraph

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