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Saints must nullify Ulster's threat early and play like the home team, maintains former England ace Hill



Saints ace Paul Hill

Saints ace Paul Hill

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Saints ace Paul Hill

In these times of Covid-19 restrictions upon European competition, one such change to this season's knockouts is the rule that no non-playing squad members are to attend the fixtures.

Given the entertainment packed into Northampton's comeback win over Dragons, those like Paul Hill who were given the weekend off missed quite the afternoon out.

Saints were trailing by scores of 22-3, 32-17 and 39-24 before coming back to win 43-39 and book a place in the Challenge Cup last-16 where they'll face Ulster at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

"I was listening on the radio and lost connection for the last 10 minutes," laughed five-times-capped England prop Hill of his attempts to follow the action.

"I was hopeful the lads could pull it back but I wasn't holding my breath.

"I got back in time to just check the score and see we'd done it.

"It was one of those games that just shows our ability to pull stuff back.

"It's good in that there's loads of games we've lost in the dying minutes so it's good to get that monkey off our back.

"We have the ability to hold our composure and finish those games off."

Hill found watching Ulster's win over Harlequins more straightforward viewing come Sunday evening and knows that the weekend visitors will come buoyed by their emphatic dismantling of a side who sit one place higher in the domestic table than Saints.

"Having watched them last week, they've a strong maul and that's something that we've got to deal with," he said.

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"They've got strong ball carriers, they're really organised, you've got to identify where they're going to attack us and we've to try and shut them down early, put points on the board and get in the lead so they can't do what they did last week and start playing free-flowing rugby. That's our game plan really.

"The Irish teams roll out their big boys for this kind of game.

"For Ulster, it's a game that they'll really embrace. That's a challenge for us and we've got to front up.

"But we're at home, we're the team that's got to set our stall out and really put it to them. They're travelling to us so it's up to us to deliver at home. The pressure is on.

"The style that European rugby brings out in both teams usually gets the crowd going so it's a shame not to have the fans there but such is the way, we've got to crack on and make our own atmosphere."

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