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In this form Montpellier won't be a stern test for Ulster Rugby

By Niall Crozier

Montpellier's form ahead of Friday night's Heineken Cup meeting with Ulster at Ravenhill is unlikely to be causing Mark Anscombe or his players sleepless nights.

Since beating Grenoble 25-18 at Yves du Manoir on November 2 they have lost six of their seven outings. Their solitary success came at home to Biarritz Olympique in the Top 14 on December 29 when they won 48-22.

Other than that it has been a case of on-going disappointment and frustration for the Fabien Galthie-coached side, with Top 14 defeats by Toulon (43-10) and Brive (15-9) either side of that win over Biarritz.

That battering by Toulon was their fifth loss in a row, Leicester Tigers having beaten them home and away following another brace of defeats by Racing Metro (17-12) and Castres Olympique (20-16), the latter in Montpellier.

In addition, their on-the-road record in Europe is no better than average, albeit that this is only their third season in the Heineken Cup.

Results on their travels have been erratic. In 2011-12, they lost all three pool-stage away games, with Bath beating them 16-13 at The Rec, Glasgow Warriors winning 20-15 at Firhill and Leinster trouncing them 25-3 at the RDS.

Last season, though, they fared rather better, for after losing 37-16 to Toulon at Stade Felix Mayol they bounced back to win 35-24 against the Blues in Cardiff and 27-6 against Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

This year they opened promisingly enough with a victory in Italy where they beat Benetton Treviso 27-10, but their next away-day ended in defeat, with Leicester Tigers winning 41-32 despite a spirited fightback by the French who had looked to be on their way to a real pounding having trailed 24-3.

Already out of contention for a place in the knock-out stages, there is little to suggest that they will re-write recent history which shows that, in the Heineken Cup, Ulster have not lost at home to French opponents since October 2008 when Stade Francais won 26-10.

Since that defeat Ulster have seen off Stade Francais (23-13 in 2009-10), Biarritz (9-6 in 2010-11), Clermont Auvergne (16-11 in 2011-12) and Castres (41-17 in 2013-13).

The smart money will be on a home win come Friday night.

Belfast Telegraph


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