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Neil Doak urges Ulster to show a ruthless streak for PRO12 campaign

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 01/09/2015

Key man: Craig Gilroy is an Ulster player who has the quality to punish opponents
Key man: Craig Gilroy is an Ulster player who has the quality to punish opponents

Ulster head coach Neil Doak has called on his side to display more of a cutting edge when their Guinness PRO12 campaign kicks-off against the Ospreys at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.

The province will be without some leading stars for the opening of the domestic season thanks to Ireland commitments but can still call on the likes of Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall and Louis Ludik to convert chances and Doak wants his side to take advantage during any spells of supremacy.

Having watched Ulster enjoy long periods of possession in their final pre-season contest with Edinburgh last week only to come away with a 23-10 defeat, he said: "In the first-half we did very well. We got in the right areas and made a couple of line busts but we just couldn't finish them off, except for the one Tommy (Bowe) scored in the corner.

"From an Edinburgh point of view, at 5-3 they were probably very pleased considering we had most of the ball in the early stages.

"We're getting in the right areas, it's just about completing the scores.

"Last week (against Leinster) we missed a couple of chances too and if we take those chances we're 20 points up at half-time and it's a different game and a different mindset going into the break.

"We've got to learn from that very quickly because we've got a big game next week."

If Ulster do get off to a winning start, Doak is sure that it will be hard earned.

"Ospreys are a good side," he warned. "We've got to sit down during the week and take a look at a couple of things from our meetings last year.

"We know each other pretty well. We know their strengths, it's going to be a physical game, we've just got to make sure we get in the right areas and take our opportunities.

"It's a key aspect of the game that has been a bugbear of mine for a few seasons, being clinical.

"We've got to make sure we turn it around for next week."

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy is equally wary of the season opener, especially with nine players named in the Wales World Cup squad yesterday.

"It's a tough opener, then we back that up with Munster at home," Tandy said.

"It's a difficult first two games.

"We have high-profile (players) away and they are the core of our team.

"We were the youngest team in Europe by average age but the good thing is we have Joe Bearman, Gareth Delve has come back to Wales, you have Brendan Leonard and Jonathan Spratt around the group.

"We are pretty comfortable if we can keep guys fit and it should be a real ding dong battle in Ulster."

Like Ulster, Ospreys lost in last season's semi-finals having been forced to play away from home in the last four and Tandy is hoping that the knock-out loss to Munster will provide motivation throughout the coming campaign.

"It was a pretty decent season for us, we got a lot of young guys through who put in some positive performances during the season," he added.

"It was disappointing losing to Munster but they probably deserved to win it on the day and it is something that we can hopefully draw experience on.

"A lot of the guys have never experienced the latter end of tournaments before so hopefully those experiences will hold us in good stead for the upcoming season.

"We have to draw on the experience, if we had have got to the final it would have been fantastic but it is how we draw on that experience of losing the semi-final, hopefully using that to make sure the performances get better and be as competitive as last season.

"It was disappointing but you just can't look at that one semi.

"It was a massive occasion and hopefully the group can look back, draw on the experience and kick on."

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