Heineken Cup: McLaughlin belief in big win bolstered by green light for classy quartet
Ulster have named a 29-man squad ahead of Saturday’s crucial Heineken Cup Pool 4 clash with Biarritz Olympique.
Coach Brian McLaughlin confirmed that injuries mean prop Paddy McAllister (ankle) and back row forward Robbie Diack (shoulder) are not available for selection.
But four players about whom there were injury worries following the Magners League victory over Treviso — Andrew Trimble, Ruan Pienaar, Declan Fitzpatrick and Pedrie Wannenburg — have been given the green light.
The back three look like being Adam D’arcy, Trimble and Simon Danielli, with Paddy Wallace and Nevin Spence probably side by side in midfield.
Once again the half-backs almost certainly will be Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys.
Tom Court, captain Rory Best and BJ Botha will pack down at numbers one, two and three respectively, with Johann Muller and Dan Tuohy forming the second row partnership, while Stephen Ferris, Willie Faloon and Pedrie Wannenburg look like wearing six, seven and eight.
The starting line-up will be confirmed at lunch-time on Friday with McLaughlin adhering to his Heineken Cup norm by delaying an announcement in order to minimise the opposition’s chances of thwarting Ulster.
“We want to make sure at Ravenhill on Saturday that we put in a quality performance which gets us the win to make sure that qualification for the quarter-finals is still very much in our hands,” was the coach’s assessment of what is on offer and what will be required if Ulster are to avail of it.
“There’s no doubt that Biarritz are a very good rugby team. We’ve already played them so we know how well they can play.
“We matched them well over there for 40 minutes and it’s a matter of us getting out at Ravenhill on Saturday and doing the same again, but extending it for 80 and making sure we get the result we want.”
Emphasising the need to approach the game in the same manner as any other, McLaughlin stressed his determination not to allow the occasion to be hyped to the point where his players are placed under additional pressure.
He was matter-of-fact in his depiction of the fixture.
He added: “It’s a European Cup game — a big game, there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s in our hands and if we want to top the group we’ve got to win it.
“From that point of view there’s no doubt that as far as Europe is concerned it’s a defining moment for us.
“But we, in camp, have kept the momentum very much the same as any other week. We’ve done the same things.
“You can take these things too far and then players can get ahead of themselves or become uptight and worried about it.
“We’ve tried to be calm and relaxed, just doing the same things as we’ve done and have been reasonably successful for us this season.
“The players like the routine we’re in at the minute so we didn’t see any need to change it.”