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Defeat by Ulster and Leo Cullen's time could be up with Leinster, says Stephen Ferris

By Cian Tracey

Published 20/05/2016

Pressure on: Leo Cullen will face stinging criticism if Leinster stumble
Pressure on: Leo Cullen will face stinging criticism if Leinster stumble
Stephen Ferris is expecting a reaction from Leinster

When Stephen Ferris launched a scathing attack on Ulster's lack of ball-carrying ability prior to his former province's 30-6 thrashing of Leinster three weeks ago, it prompted an emphatic response from the players, but he has warned that Leinster are a different proposition on their home turf.

Ulster opened up the Leinster defence at ease in Belfast but as the two sides get set to meet again in this evening's Pro12 semi-final, Ferris is expecting a reaction from Leo Cullen's side.

However, the former Ireland and Lions flanker believes that if Leinster were to lose, it would heap enormous pressure on Cullen and his players.

"If Leinster lose this game, there'll be calls for boys' heads because it won't sit well," Ferris said at the Ulster Bank League awards.

"The last game is a pretty big deal because we went out and gave them a hammering and to be honest, the Leinster boys would have felt pretty embarrassed after it.

"You can't mask it, they were absolutely hockeyed. It (winning margin) could have been a lot more.

"Big names like Ben Te'o and (Garry) Ringrose, there was a lot of smoke blown up those guys' asses and the two Ulster centres (Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall) ripped them to shreds.

"With the dry ball, our lineout is functioning well. You'll notice that we're not mauling a lot. We're just getting it off the top and giving it to our big runners.

"We made Ringrose and Te'o look very amateur up in Belfast. Hopefully the weather holds up because if it does, we can get good set-piece ball and hopefully we can get over the line.

"I think there's an opportunity to go and win this bloody thing. We've got a massive game this weekend and then a final to play if we make that. They've just got to take it one game at a time as they have done in the last four or five weeks."

Over the closing weeks of the season, particularly in the win over Leinster, Ulster have set high standards for themselves and Ferris is adamant that they cannot let that drop this evening.

Leinster are unbeaten in the Pro12 at home this season.

Dublin has rarely been a happy hunting ground for Ulster but Ferris insists that they have what it takes to take a giant step towards ending their 10-year wait for a trophy.

There is a feeling that Leinster perhaps didn't show their full hand three weeks ago with the possibility of meeting their rivals in the semi-final but there is no doubt that it is Ulster who come into this evening's mouthwatering encounter as the form team having racked up four consecutive wins.

"If the same Leinster turn up that turned up in Ravenhill, there's only going to be one winner," Ferris said.

"From an Ulster perspective, they need to just keep doing the same stuff.

"The boys are looking more confident whereas Leinster are stuttering a little bit.

"They lost heavily against us then they had a big win against Treviso but how does that put it into perspective?

"They should be beating them by a lot of points.

"I think Ulster are in a good place at the minute. I think Leinster might be more like that mindset - they're kind of in a transitional period as well, the whole coaching set-up coming in, players coming, Ben Te'o leaving next year. Dave Kearney coming back from injury - they've been a little bit unsettled, but Ulster have been able to put the same team almost week in week out.

"I don't expect Leinster to play the same way, if they do they're going to get beaten.

"They have to mix it up. (Johnny) Sexton has to play the corners, none of these wrap plays in his own 22.

"They have to play to their strengths and their strengths are in their forwards."

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