Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

RaboDirect Pro12: Kyriacou hooked on turning up heat at Ravenhill

He’s clearly had a fair blast of the sun, with the now reddened face under that thatch of similarly coloured hair being a highly visible legacy of last Saturday afternoon in northern Italy.



Though the win in Aironi is gone and the focus is now on going after table-topping Cardiff Blues in the more comfortable surroundings of Ravenhill, Ulster hooker Andi Kyriacou still can’t quite park the experience of playing in the cauldron of heat that was the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella.

Ulster got the four points, to remain unbeaten although with no bonus points after two games, but the conditions played their part in an unusually high penalty count going against a clearly tiring Ulster; one of several areas being addressed this week ahead of tonight’s clash at Ravenhill.

“I know the excuse has been thrown out quite a bit about the heat, but it was really hot,” Kyriacou said. “But it was 35 degrees or so and I think the urgency that you usually see from some of us was just sapped out.

“And that caused penalties for lying on the ground, as you were unable to roll away because you were just so fatigued.

“It was disappointing as we always give ourselves a target before every game aimed at keeping the penalty count really low.”

There were also issues at the set-piece where the Italians caused Ulster some discomfort, a situation that was particularly frustrating for the former Saracen.

Allen Clarke’s name then gets dropped into the conversation, as the former Ulster and Ireland hooker has been working with the pack this season.

“There were a few issues (from Aironi) that have been highlighted with Clarkey,” Kyriacou said.

“He’s really broken the whole set-piece down to minute detail and he’s working one on one, or three on three, and making us as players take ownership on what we’re taking out onto the field.

“He’s really good, he makes you answer the questions, as opposed to him giving you the answers, and I think the lads are learning a lot from him.”

The Blues, who have notched up two bonus point wins to sit two points clear at the top of the table, will pose a considerable challenge.

“Cardiff are always tough as they play at a ferocious pace and tempo,” Kyriacou said. “We’re going to have to be on our mettle and make sure when we’ve got the ball we keep hold of it and not give those guys any kind of counter-attacking opportunities — that’s when they’re very dangerous.”

With Rory Best in New Zealand, Kyriacou, who has played for Ireland A, is clearly relishing his run in the side while also doing likewise with fatherhood after the recent birth of his son Ted.

“He’s cracking, really good,” he said. “But I’ve got the deal struck in with the missus for the night before I play and I’ve got a free pass.”

Now there’s no excuse for feeling weary, even with that nasty sunburn.

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