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Ospreys braced for an early Ulster onslaught



Game plan: Ospreys defence coach Brad Davis is ready

Game plan: Ospreys defence coach Brad Davis is ready

©INPHO/James Crombie

Game plan: Ospreys defence coach Brad Davis is ready

Ospreys defence coach Brad Davis has told his side to brace themselves for an early Ulster blitz in their Champions Cup play-off.

Both sides will meet at the Kingspan Stadium on Sunday for a place in Europe's premier club competition. And Davis believes the key to success will be surviving an early onslaught from the Ulstermen.

"The first 20 minutes in most games of knockout rugby are vital in terms of the platform you can lay with and without the ball, and the tone you can set for the remainder of the match," said the former Wasps coach.

"There are going to be moments where Ulster will have periods of sustained pressure and we will have to manage our way out of that. And when we get chances to apply pressure we need to convert them into points.

"The side that can take advantage of those moments will be the one that comes out on top."

The Swansea-based region have endured a torrid PRO14 campaign as they finished fifth in Conference A, 19 points off the play-offs. Ulster are set to be without influential captain Rory Best and British and Irish Lions lock Iain Henderson.

But Davis says Jono Gibbes' side will not miss the pair as much as people expect.

"Sometimes that can be a galvaniser for the opposition when they lose a player of that influence," he said. "Rory Best is an outstanding operator at club, international and British and Irish Lions level. It's always a boost when someone of that calibre may not take to the park.

"In saying that, the guy they've got coming in as a replacement is a handy player himself. This game is not so much about the opposition we're playing, it is about what we can deliver.

"There's only one thing that matters for us this Sunday and that's getting the win."

Meanwhile, Northampton are in "open discussions" with George North's representatives to end his Saints contract early ahead of Wales' summer tour.

North and Gloucester back-row forward Ross Moriarty, who are both returning to Wales to join the Ospreys and Dragons respectively this summer, will tour.

Their clash against South Africa in Washington DC on June 2 falls outside World Rugby's Test window, and England-based players have not been made available by Premiership Rugby.

A Northampton spokesperson said: "We are in open discussions to end his contract with Saints early in order to enable him to tour with Wales this summer."

Belfast Telegraph