Belfast Telegraph

Neil Doak eager for his Ulster charges to maintain momentum

By Michael Sadlier

For once, all seems to be on target, at least when it comes to on-pitch activities.

Ulster are only one game away from ending this four-match segment with a perfect record and they roll up at the Dragons on Sunday (kick-off 4.00pm). If achieved, it should leave them in a pretty healthy place in the Guinness PRO12 table.

And with the play-offs beginning to loom large, finishing ahead of the break in games until the end of the month by racking up a fifth straight PRO12 win will be a considerable boost for Ulster who are currently in third but just one point off leaders Munster.

However, this week's citings of Roger Wilson and Luke Marshall have thrown things somewhat when it comes to Ulster's preparation for Sunday with coach Neil Doak having to prepare a number of scenarios should the players be hit with some form of sanction from today's disciplinary hearing.

"Results-wise you can't argue with wins," Doak admitted, "but performance-wise we haven't been as good as I'd hoped.

"It also has been a difficult period," he added with a nod to the disruption that comes as part of the territory with the Six Nations.

"And this week is another case with it being difficult with the citings.

"It's been fairly disruptive over the last month trying to finalise the starting team and we haven't known whether national players are going to get released as well.

"But ultimately we've had three wins and we must try and make sure we get a fourth away from home this weekend," Doak explained.

The coach will be hoping that Iain Henderson comes Ulster's way again for the trip to Newport and though this does seem likely, it appears by no means certain.

As for another off-field issue, namely the lack of fit to play specialist openside flankers in the squad, following the season-ending injury to stand-in flanker Tim Boys, the coach stated that it was unlikely that Ulster would be seeking to bring in another player at this stage of the season.

"Well, we have discussed a few things but I don't think there will be anything at this stage," Doak said while stressing that he is still hopeful Chris Henry might make it back to playing at the end of the campaign.

However, the more pressing priority is to get the required result from the Dragons who are down in 10th spot and have picked up only four wins in their 16 games to date.

Doak knows that this one is no 'gimme' though and Ulster's away record is definitely not what it ought to be either.

"They're a side that if you sit back and let them dictate, they're pretty efficient and they can cause you problems.

"It's not an easy place and we have frequently battled over there so we know that we can't let them get a foothold in the game," stated Doak.

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