Ulster coach Neil Doak happy to be hitting long run of games
Neil Doak is happy to put Ulster's "bizarre" start to the season behind him as he prepares the side to face Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday night.
The Kingspan outfit's Pro12 campaign began at the start of last month but, with rugby's attention on the World Cup, this weekend will be only their fourth game of the season.
Now entering a run of 16 straight weeks with a fixture, Doak is looking forward to a more regular routine.
"It's been a strange sort of first part to the season," he said yesterday. "With playing a couple of games and then off, (it's difficult) trying to get that sort of consistency in training, everybody feeling comfortable. It was bizarre as a coach as well.
"Once you get to this stage, it's usually game, game, game, but now you all of a sudden get two weeks off and you go 'Right, okay' and have to try to prep for further down the line.
"We've a long stretch coming up here now and we're conscious of that."
Ulster will come up against one of the league's form teams on Friday when Doak goes head-to-head with his former coach Alan Solomons.
The side from the Scottish capital have won three from three this season and looked impressive even without their Test stars.
"They've had a good start to the season," said Doak.
"We know what type of game it's going to be; it's going to be attritional.
"They've done well when they've got close to the opposition line. They got in for a couple of maul tries and they work hard around the corner.
"The key for us is we've got to match that physicality.
"They haven't had a lot of set-piece in their own 22 to deal with. We've got to make sure when we're in those areas that we're patient on the ball."
Ian Humphreys and Sam Windsor have both trained but remain injury doubts, meaning Peter Nelson could continue in the number 10 jersey.
He has impressed at out-half to date and Doak has had both the Dungannon man and Stuart McCloskey practising their goal-kicking this week.
"Away from home, in tight games it can come down to goal-kicks," said the coach.
"It is vital that we keep the scoreboard ticking along and put Edinburgh under enough pressure that they maybe change the style that they want to play."
With that in mind, Ulster must maintain their own discipline.
Dudley Phillips will referee the game, taking charge of an Ulster contest for the first time since the defeat to Newport Dragons last year.
The province struggled at the breakdown that day, while they escaped with victory on their last visit to Murrayfield despite a red card, and Doak is conscious of the need to make better impressions come Friday.
"We've emphasised that, away from home, we need to be as disciplined as we can and paint good pictures for the referee," he added.
Pro12 League: Murrayfield, Friday 7.45pm (Sky)