Belfast Telegraph

There is no bigger task than facing Leinster at the Aviva, says Ulster coach Peel


Warning cry: Dwayne Peel has saluted Leinster’s ruthlessness
Warning cry: Dwayne Peel has saluted Leinster’s ruthlessness
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster attack coach Dwayne Peel believes there is no greater challenge than travelling to face Leinster but is sure his young squad will be energised by the opportunity this weekend.

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The northern province are back in the Champions Cup knock-outs for a first time in five years and readying themselves for a rare run out at the Aviva Stadium against the European and PRO14 champions on Saturday.

"They have massive depth in their squad," said Peel of Leinster.

"That is the massive thing which stands out, they have quality throughout the squad and deep within the squad. As well it's their style of play, they challenge you in all their facets of the game.

"Any sort of lack of concentration, they punish teams and that is the biggest thing, they are quite ruthless.

"They are down the line in their progression as well, they have been together a long time a lot of those players. They have a lot of consistency within that in the way they want to play.

"They are runaway leaders of the league at the minute and they are current European champions so there is no greater task for us in all honesty, that is the reality of it.

"There is no bigger task than to go where we are going on Saturday.

"But for us that is not a daunting thing, it is an excitement for us. Against an Irish province as well is another add on to it. We are looking forward to it. It will be great for us."

The former British and Irish Lion scrum-half's second season in Belfast has been a stark contrast to his first.

While last year was a long and often arduous season, with Dan McFarland coming in at the head of the ticket, the province are back in the sharp end of European competition and sitting second in their half of the PRO14.

New signings like Will Addison, Jordi Murphy, Marty Moore and Billy Burns have impressed while the squad has been boosted by the emergence of a host of young players from the Academy.

When asked what sparked such a dramatic turnaround from 12 months ago, Peel praised the attitude of the squad throughout the campaign.

"I have to credit the players," he said.

"They have worked really hard and they have really bought in to the way we want to play on both sides of the ball. I think they have worked hard off the pitch in terms of preparation as well.

"We have managed to bleed a lot of good young players as well and that creates competition within the squad and those guys have really stepped up for us and it has been great to see our progress.

"The likes of Mike Lowry and Rob Baloucoune in the back line, Tommy O'Toole and Eric O'Sullivan (up front), you know these guys have been finds for us this season. At the start of the season, they were with us as young development players and they have managed to hold down first team places.

"So it is exciting for us but also important because of some of the injuries we have had. Craig Gilroy has not played with us since before Christmas so you would think it would leave a big void for us, but the likes of Rob (Baloucoune) coming in and stepping up has been fantastic."

Peel played against his Leinster counterpart Felipe Contepomi at Test level when representing Wales and can see the mercurial Argentine's stamp on the province's play this season.

"He was class," Peel added. "He was, in his prime, one of the best.

"He was quite inventive as a player for both Leinster and Argentina and you can see some of that coming through on their plays, their first launches and stuff.

"We have spoken about being on our mettle in all areas of the game, but the biggest thing about Leinster is that if you are off your game for 10 minutes they will hurt you."

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