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Ambitious Ulster are excited by fresh start, says Reidy



Looking forward: Sean Reidy is upbeat about Ulster’s desire and work ethic under new head coach Dan McFarland

Looking forward: Sean Reidy is upbeat about Ulster’s desire and work ethic under new head coach Dan McFarland

�INPHO/Matt Mackey

Looking forward: Sean Reidy is upbeat about Ulster’s desire and work ethic under new head coach Dan McFarland

With the day's main act still to come, Sean Reidy sets the tone with a pretty solid warm-up routine which hits all the right notes.

Though star turn Dan McFarland has yet to make his entrance, Reidy, like any dutiful squad member, has already been absorbing the script regarding the new head coach's message.

The 29-year-old hard-grafting back-rower has certainly put in some heavy mileage since making his Ulster debut back in November 2014 - indeed, he is now taking instructions from a fourth different head coach since joining - and is rightly expected to make his 81st appearance for the province in Saturday's first Guinness PRO14 outing with the Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium.

So, Reidy has witnessed much of Ulster's gradual unravelling, which most obviously gained new momentum through the events on and off the field during last season.

No better man then to articulate the players' view of what is coming through from McFarland, who only officially started work last week after managing to secure an early release from his contract as assistant to Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

"He's (McFarland) brought a different dynamic and he really knows his stuff," said the Irish-qualified Kiwi, who has two Ireland caps.

"He wants us to be quite ambitious and play from anywhere and scoring tries off turnover plays.

"He also just wants a real community feel to the team.

"I suppose it's a fresh start for us and we've got high ambitions to play some good rugby this season.

"We did leave the end of last season on a high," he stated of Ulster's five-game unbeaten run, which included their securing of Champions Cup rugby through the play-off victory against the Ospreys.

"So, all in all, it's quite exciting."

It all starts at home on Saturday when the Scarlets look anything but a soft-landing opener for a home side seeking to put down a marker for what might be attainable this season.

"It's a good opportunity to get this campaign off to a winning start," Reidy maintained, before adding a note of caution which seems fitting with expectations fairly low as Ulster enter what seems a rebuild phase.

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"I'm not going to say we're going to win back-to-back games, but I feel everyone is busting themselves to be the best we can be.

"There are spots (in the starting team) up for grabs and young guys are coming in, so if everyone is working hard each week we can push to be the best we can be on Saturday."

Suggestions that back-row congestion will make it harder to get game time, with Marcell Coetzee seemingly in shape and Jordi Murphy yet to tog out at his new club, are dismissed by Reidy as part and parcel of making the overall team better.

He's also a senior player now, and with that comes added responsibility to set the right tone for both McFarland and the emerging players, all with an eye on a better future.

"Yeah, I suppose it's sort of setting the standards for these young guys about what Ulster is all about and how we go about doing things," said Reidy.

"If you set the right standards, guys coming in will follow and add to it themselves.

"There's a core bunch of (leadership) guys especially as there are quite a few guys who've now moved on.

"There are guys who are now really trying to push the standards each week, and the more we can do that, then the better we will be.

"There are guys trying to better themselves every day, and seeing guys doing it makes you think that if you want to pull on that jersey you want to go that extra mile."

There is no escaping the sense of a new beginning, but only time will tell how easily cultural change can be transferred onto the pitch.

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