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Greg Jones insists Ulster are a much improved team and have proved they can bounce back from mistakes

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Greg Jones. Credit: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Greg Jones. Credit: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Greg Jones. Credit: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The last time Greg Jones sat in front of the media, he claimed that Ulster needed to improve their ability to close out wins — particularly in the big games — in order to win trophies.

That was back in June when there were questions over how Ulster were unable to close out leads at Gloucester and Leicester Tigers in Europe. Since then, however, it’s hard to argue that the province haven’t improved in that aspect, last week’s result aside.

Not being able to seal the victory against Munster in Thomond Park despite having an extra man for 56 minutes of the contest is the exception to the rule, though. Wins away to Leinster and Clermont, and holding off a spirited Northampton Saints comeback, suggest a side much more comfortable playing while in front than before.

Jones, who played in all three of those wins as well as last week’s defeat in Limerick, admits it is something they have specifically focused on in the aftermath of last season’s disappointment, particularly at Welford Road when they threw away an excellent chance at silverware, and believes what they have done has already paid dividends this season.

“We spent a lot of time debriefing after those losses last year when we were pipped in unfortunate circumstances and we spoke about how we were talking in huddles when we’d our backs to the wall,” revealed the flanker.

“We’ve brought in a few mechanisms to get our points across, re-centre us in those times when we’re under pressure. We’ve practiced those in training where we’ll take breaks when training isn’t going well and we’ll analyse what we’re doing wrong and our messaging in how we rectify that.

“That’s been hugely beneficial. We touched on it a bit last year but Darren (Devaney, Ulster’s lead performance psychologist) brought in a few bits about bringing the team together under one voice so it’s less hectic and less small conversations. He’s definitely helped us there.”

The past few months have been something of a purple patch for Jones, who has worked his way into a regular role within the Ulster side in recent weeks having played in those three big wins, and he looks set to feature again in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup trip to Franklin’s Gardens to face the Saints.

The Dubliner, who celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday, has been forced to bide his time since moving north, but seems to have found favour in recent months and is eager for it to stay that way.

“I’d like to think off the pitch and away from games my role has been quite similar in that I’d be relatively vocal, try and give insight in areas when I can,” explained Jones.

“It maybe looks like there’s more that I’m putting in on the pitch because of the games you’re seeing. I don’t know if my standing has changed or anything but it’s great to be playing and I want to keep doing that.”

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