Artificial pitch at Cardiff will be a plus for Ulster Rugby, insists Neil Doak
Neil Doak has no misgivings about the fact that when Ulster face Cardiff Blues tomorrow in the Welsh capital (6.30pm), it will be on an artificial pitch at the Arms Park.
"I don't think it's a real issue," the Ulster back line guru said. "The guys know about this; we've trained on 3Gs that are a lot firmer than a 4G pitch.
"I really don't think it's going to be any different to early pre-season pitches – they're firm, there isn't much grass on them and they're pretty tight.
"If we hadn't been able to run around on an artificial surface, then potentially this could pose a problem. But we have been doing that so I don't think this is an issue for us."
Indeed, with Ulster having a quick, mobile and skilful pack ahead of a particularly pacey back line, Doak believes the Arms Park surface could be a plus rather than a negative for Ulster.
"Obviously there's not much mud or dirt on the ball so definitely that encourages a slightly quicker game," he pointed out.
"I think the stats maybe show that the ball is in play a little longer, so teams can think more about using it advantageously than when they're having to tend with wet conditions and a ball with mud or sand on it.
"That can mean a looser, more free-flowing game and the danger with that is that things can spiral out of control completely with everybody starting to think, 'Right, this is basketball rugby on a great surface'.
"So you've got to be conscious that you still have to play within your structures, use the ball wisely and play in the right areas."
With next weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens in mind, the Ulster line-up for tomorrow's Cardiff date –named at noon today – promises to be very strong.
Doak said: "Obviously we've a few guys who are back from Ireland and we need to integrate them in. And we've got guys who are coming back from injury who need game time, so that gives us the potential to have a full deck to select from the following week against Saracens.
"We're obviously trying to integrate people back in and there isn't much time to do that. But at this stage of the season, that's what it's about."
Meanwhile, In Wednesday's Belfast Telegraph, having been misinformed, we reported that Enniskillen Collegiate's victory over Grosvenor GS in Tuesday afternoon's Girls Schools' final had given them the trophy for the fifth year in a row.
It was, in fact, their fifth win in six seasons – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. Grosvenor GS were the winners in 2012