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Exiles side may throw caution to the wind

By Gavin Mairs

So, what are we to make of London Irish?

Brian Smith's side were one of the talking points of last season in England, catching the eye with a third-place finish in the Guinness Premiership.

This season, however, has been much tougher for the Exiles, whose Irish representation is now generally limited to Justin Bishop, Bob Casey, Aiden McCullen and Barry Everitt.

They are currently seventh in the Premership with four wins and five defeats and crashed out of the EDF Anglo-Welsh Cup with a 31-7 defeat to Cardiff last Friday.

And having lost their opening Heineken Cup home game to Llanelli and followed that up with a defeat at Toulouse, there seems little hope of them reaching the quarter-finals.

Gauging their commitment to tomorrow's game will probably not become clear until the opening exchanges.

The word from the Madejski however is that experienced campaigners like Mike Catt believe the visit of Ulster is the perfect opportunity to back up their last home match - a 40-5 victory over Northampton in the Premiership - with a free-flowing, devil-may-care approach. A dangerous prospect.

Ulster coach Mark McCall admits a SWOT analysis of the opposition is far from easy.

"They are probably the most difficult side that we have come up against to analyse," said McCall. "It is not absolutely certain what their best starting XV is and what their best combinations are. That in itself offers an element of intrigue from our viewpoint."

"Their combinations play slightly differently and they defend slightly differently. What I can say about them is because they are unpredictable, they have got some dangerous players.

"And if they are on song, they are on song in a big way. We watched them beat Northampton two weeks ago. Everything went their way and they played really well.

"But it also seems this year when they go behind, sometimes they don't have the ability to get back into games so it is important for us to start the game very well, try and impose ourselves on the game, try and build a lead and take it from there."

Belfast Telegraph


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