McLaughlin in call for Ulster to show mettle
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin wants his side to bounce back from the disappointment of the Scarlets game in their last Magners League outing as they take a step into the unknown on Friday night for their first game at the new Cardiff City Stadium.
Both sides are desperate for the points with Ulster sill harbouring hopes of a top four finish and a play-off place while their hosts Cardiff are in a fight to finish as the third Welsh team and secure a place in next season’s Heineken Cup.
“We looking forward to Cardiff because we were disappointed with the performance we put up at the Scarlets when we made a lot of basic errors and our discipline was poor,” said McLaughlin.
“We really didn’t do ourselves justice in that game and we are out this week to make sure that when we go to Cardiff we put up a quality performance.”
One of the characteristics of this Ulster side has been its ability to bounce back from poor performances and McLaughlin is hopeful that trend will continue against the Blues.
“That is what we are hoping for but we have talked all year about consistency and we have talked all year about backing our performances up. We had a smashing performance at Bath and then in our next big away game was at Scarlets and we fell flat on our face.
“We can’t afford to do that and we have got to learn, we have to realise that when we go to places like Cardiff and the Scarlets that we have to play sensibly with the ball, we have to make the opposition fight for everything they get.
“We didn’t do that at Llanelli but it is something that we are really looking forward to putting right this week.
“It’s frustrating for the players because they don’t want to perform like that and over the last couple of weeks we have taken a good look at what we did.
“We’ve looked at things, talked about things and we’ve had a good start to the week at training.
“We’re on the right track but we have got to turn up on Friday night and we’ve got to play because for once results in the Magners League over the last few weeks have been good for us.
“The league is very tight and the top four is still very wide open. Mathematically we do have a chance and there is still plenty to play for so we’ve got to get our chins up and get to Cardiff and do our best.”
McLaughlin has the luxury of having his internationals back for the trip to Cardiff.
Hooker Rory Best and flanker Stephen Ferris return from Ireland duty after both missed the game at Parc y Scarlets.
Cillian Willis broke his leg playing for the Ravens against Connacht last week so Belfast Harlequins’ Ireland U20 scrum half Michael Heaney is named in McLaughlin’s extended 30-man squad. Queen’s centre Jonny Shiels and Malone full back Mark McCrea are also named.
Bryn Cunningham sits the trip out with a hamstring problem but is expected to be fit for the return game with Cardiff at Ravenhill next Saturday.