Belfast Telegraph

Heineken Cup: McLaughlin 'getting best out of Ulster team'

By Steven Beacom

Harry Williams believes the current coach at Ravenhill, Brian McLaughlin, has been a major success because “he understands the Ulster psyche”.

McLaughlin is the first coach since Williams to take Ulster to the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup.

In between Alan Solomons, Mark McCall and Matt Williams all tried but didn't deliver in club rugby's biggest competition.

McLaughlin, more reserved that some of the above, is highly regarded by the man who inspired Ulster to conquer Europe in 1999.

“Brian has done a fantastic job with Ulster,” says Williams.

“You don't need to be demonstrative or going on TV all the time to be a good coach. He is a good communicator and the boys rate him highly, which is vital.

“I've known him for a long time. He was actually playing for Ards when I was coaching Bangor. He was a very impressive player in those days. I've also known him to a degree through Schools rugby and now he is with Ulster I've watched and admired what he is doing.

“The key I believe to Brian's success is that he understands the Ulster psyche.

“To me there is no one in the world like Ulstermen and he has a knowledge of how to make them work. The South African guys have come in and do what they do, but Brian has got the Ulster guys going and the squad seems to be like a big family at the moment.

“That was the key to our success and there seems to be the same great spirit in the team now. Everyone is close and everyone is enjoying each other's company. The importance of that spirit should not be underestimated.

“Against Northampton on Sunday, our South African forwards will add the muscle which is required these days and the Ulster back line will be crucial.

“Ruan Pienaar gets better and better, Ian Humphreys is in form and Nevin Spence excites me. I don't know if he will start but he is already looking like a future international and don't forget Andrew Trimble, who is a dangerous winger.

“None of our players have been in this situation before, but that was the case in 1999 and we handled it then. Brian’s team can do the same.”

Belfast Telegraph

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