Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Keeping the error count low is key to Ulster victory: Willie-John McBride

Ulster legend Willie-John McBride is expecting a closely fought contest when Mark Anscombe's men meet Saracens in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals tomorrow evening.

While the game will be played at a Ravenhill stadium that is barely recognisable to the one graced by McBride in his heyday, the 74-year-old has a wealth of experience in fixtures of this magnitude and knows that the margin between success and failure is often fine.

"The game at that level, there is usually very little between teams and that's the way it is with Ulster and Saracens," said the 1974 British and Irish Lions captain.

"It's the team that manages to make less mistakes that usually comes out on top and whoever is on song for the 80 minutes will win."

Johann Muller, captaining the side from the engine room just as McBride did before him, will be in direct opposition to Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick and the battle between the totemic locks should prove especially interesting, with McBride adding: "Both sides have strong packs so it will be a good battle."

Ulster allowed Gareth Davies to kick seven penalties in last week's Pro12 defeat to Cardiff, while also conceding 16 points while lock Dan Tuohy was in the sin bin, and with Saracens' out-half Owen Farrell in deadly form with the boot, McBride also believes that discipline and getting on the right side of Jerome Garces will be an important factor.

"The referee will have a big part to play as well but if Ulster can get all those little things together, I believe they have the players and the skills to win it, there's no question about that."

McBride himself was caught up in the pre-match build-up when last month Ulster fans reacted angrily to a hastily-removed YouTube video from Saracens that featured an actor dubbing over the Ballymena hero's voice.

However, the 63-times capped Irish international reflected: "I don't get into that sort of stuff really; as I always say the answer is in the scoreboard."

Willie-John McBride was speaking at the launch of the Guinness Carrick Sevens which will be held over the weekend beginning Friday May 2.

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