Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Concentration key for Bell as he bids to ensure defensive rock

As an assistant coach with defensive responsibilities, a certain amount of frustration simply comes with the territory.

Take last Friday night’s opening PRO12 League win over Glasgow which for Jonny Bell was all going pretty well until with just over 10 minutes to go former Ulster player Tommy Seymour suddenly found himself in open country and the next thing he was over the line.

That hurt and Bell can’t help but bring the moment up as he discusses Ulster’s generally decent first outing while also focusing on the rather more pressing task of going after a rare win against current PRO12 champions the Ospreys at their Liberty Stadium home today (kick-off 6.30pm).

“We were caught napping for that final try, it was a little bit of a mistake,” he admits.

“But that’s the margins at this level, you defend 95% of the time effectively and then you go to sleep for two seconds and a team can score.”

You sense the point was rather more forcibly made in the post-match shakedown. The concession of any try is always something to be dissected, another piece of work viewing the footage to identify if it was simply the players or possibly the system which led to the line being breached.

Yet, Bell can still take some sustenance from what he witnessed in that vital first-up win and the former Ulster European Cup winner and Ireland player feels that the squad can travel with considerable hope to take on an Ospreys side which surprisingly came unstuck last week at Treviso.

“I don’t think Glasgow really caused us a huge number of problems (defensively) and I thought our discipline was good,” Bell says before adding. “That’s the challenge for our guys to make sure that we can keep that concentration and that focus.

“We’ve got to go there and be very structured in what we’re trying to do.

“The boys have been working incredibly hard defensively and from my perspective they have really bought into what we’re trying to do.

“We’re trying to get our line to speed up a bit and put teams under pressure,” Bell adds before attention inevitably turns towards the input former Osprey Tommy Bowe has been having on this week’s overall squad preparation.

“We would be mad not to pick his brains and not only for his experience but the fact that we’re playing a team in which he was an integral part.

“Even though he’s not back in our squad yet, he’s central to our preparation this week,” Bell says.

The former Ulster Academy coach is fulsome in his praise at how the cadre of young players in the squad have recently risen to the challenge offered to them by new man at the helm Mark Anscombe.

Even though some the more experienced players are now beginning to be filtered back towards playing again, there is still an awesome task awaiting Anscombe’s starting side as Ulster have only won once at the Liberty Stadium since clinching the then Celtic League back in 2006.

“We know how tough it will be and the history dictates that. They’re the defending PRO12 champions but our mindset is we’re going there to win the game.”

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