Time for excuses is over, says Ulster boss Williams
It’s payback time. That was the message from Ulster coach Matt Williams ahead of tonight’s Magners League clash against Edinburgh at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.30pm).
Ulster are desperate to register their first win in the competition to not only lift themselves off the bottom of the table but also provide a vital confidence boost ahead of the start of the Heineken Cup next weekend.
After narrow defeats to the Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons, Williams’ side suffered a humiliating mauling at the hands of the Ospreys in Swansea last Saturday night, a record 43-0 defeat.
They’re ready to right that wrong tonight against an Edinburgh side with just one win under their belts – against the Scarlets.
Williams, who has wielded his axe for tonight’s game, hit his players with some tough talking in a heart-to-heart meeting on Tuesday.
And the message was simple: stop looking for excuses for losing and start taking personal responsibility for your actions on the field.
Ulster missed 25 tackles in the first half alone against the Ospreys when more than 10 a match is usually too many.
They are a better team than that, as they proved when they should have beaten Cardiff at the Arms Park.
And tonight is the night for the team to stand up and belatedly get their season up and running.
Experienced men such as Rory Best, Paul Steinmetz and Stephen Ferris can lead the way while rookie Cillian Willis and young gun David Pollock can inject much needed vigour.
“The team are all really looking forward to the game tonight,” said Williams, who has made a total of 10 changes from the side that went down at the Ospreys.
“We want to make amends for what happened in Swansea. We all know our performance was below standard and are looking forward to putting things right.
“There are two ways you can look at it. You either respond and come out and put some action on the field and let that do your talking or you drop your head. In our position, we can’t drop our heads.
“This is a journey for this team and there are going to be some tough weeks during the season.
“But I have huge faith in this team.”
Williams also sent out a resounding message to the team’s supporters, who have been voting with their feet with the gates for the last two games only averaging 7,500 compared to over 10,000 a couple of seasons ago.
“The team really need their supporters over the next few months,” added Williams.
“They are going through a hard time and need the Ulster supporters to get behind them and will them to a win. I would love to see that Ulster spirit in the support throughout the province.
“You get to the point when the team does need to get some confidence back.
“They need to get that energy and joy that comes from winning.
“The guys are working very hard and I have never come into a week where you could suggest they are not working.
“Everyone, not just the players, but management, coaches, administration staff, they are all working really hard, but no one is getting the reward they deserve for that.
“No one is getting the joy out of this team from the work they are doing.”
Williams added: “I get frustrated for the guys because they are not getting that joy and energy from winning.
“We just have to keep looking at that performance.
“I know we are not far away but we cannot talk about that, we have to put it into action, it is just hollow words coming from a coach. We have to act it out.”
To do that Ulster must get back to executing the basics correctly.
They must make their tackles, win the ball and keep hold of it when in the opposition 22 and cut out handling errors that have undermined the attempts to convert possession into points.
Not so long ago, the visit of a side like Edinburgh to Ravenhill would not have represented much of a threat.
It’s time for Ulster to remind their fans that Ravenhill can be a fortress again. Quite simply another defeat would not be good enough.