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Brian McLaughlin keen for Armagh to focus after their great pre-season


Advice: former Ulster boss Brian McLaughlin helps out at Armagh

Advice: former Ulster boss Brian McLaughlin helps out at Armagh

Advice: former Ulster boss Brian McLaughlin helps out at Armagh

There are no Belfast-based teams in the top section of the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership so, once again, it looks as though the title will be a contest between the holders Ballynahinch and Ballymena.

Four fixtures are scheduled for Saturday but in view of the expected traffic congestion on 'Black Saturday' the game between Armagh and Banbridge has been brought forward to this evening at Palace Grounds (7.45pm).

Armagh are still awaiting the arrival of their big South African prop Jandre Venter but despite his absence have managed a few pre-season victories. Wins over Highlands (Inverness) and Bangor were followed by a 31-17 defeat of Ballymena.

Coaching Advisor Brian McLaughlin stated he was pleased with the progress the squad had made in the off-season and praised the physicality they demonstrated against Ballymena.

He also stressed that they should not be too complacent following their latest success.

"This was Ballymena's first game and it will be an entirely different contest when we travel to Eaton Park next week in the First Trust Senior Cup," said the former Ulster boss.

After ending last season undefeated in Division 2 and coming so close to promotion to the AIL 1B, Banbridge will be aiming to go one step closer this time.

They led the 2A table for most of the season before Naas, who lost four of their first nine outings, proceeded to win their final nine to slide through by three points.

Bann had suffered unexpected late losses to both Corinthians and then UCC in the promotion play-off but are now a much stronger and experienced outfit.

Former Ulster scrum-half Ian Porter makes a welcome return from Connacht while in the pack Michael Cromie is also back in action in the front row after a spell with Rotherham.

Saturday's fixtures, Division 1 : City of Derry v Ballymena, Dungannon v Ballynahinch. Division 2: Malone v Belfast Harlequins, Queen's v Rainey

Belfast Telegraph