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Kiss confident Deysel can power Ulster


By Michael Sadlier

As the temperature began its descent for the evening, an already cold Les Kiss began to address the issues that have rapidly surfaced as a result of last weekend's thumping 44-16 defeat in Connacht.

At times, the atmosphere veered towards the edge of being frosty, as Kiss is clearly a man under some pressure, but the Australian played things with a straight bat as he kicked the issues around while always trying to focus on the positives.

"I have got to say I didn't see it coming and am very disappointed in it," he said of the Connacht visit.

"Equally the players are disappointed in that performance, it is not what we expect of ourselves and we know other people expect better and so they should.

"But we have got this great game that gives us a chance a week later to do things differently, and that is what we are after - a response.

"These things (big defeats) can happen, but they shouldn't.

"That's all there is to it, we shouldn't wait for a big event to perform. It's got to be a habit we have ingrained into us," added Kiss.

"We are hurting but we have got to make sure we do whatever is necessary to return.

"That's the bottom line. The 15 and the other guys, we have to do that."

So, we can presumably reckon on a big reaction when Munster, who have rather ominously managed to win the last four games between the sides, trot out at the Kingspan on New Year's Day.

"Absolutely, I'd expect it," snapped back Ulster's director of rugby.

Selection-wise for the must-win interprovincial derby with Munster, he does have Jean Deysel's ball-carrying ability back in harness for the first time since October after the South African shipped a neck injury in the defeat to Leinster.

No doubt it is hoped that Deysel will bring some extra edge when meeting Munster, his former employers, and his power going forward will hopefully give Ulster more front-foot ball than they ever saw in Galway.

Charles Piutau and Christian Leali'ifano will also make their returns after missing out on Connacht, while it is also hoped that Stuart McCloskey will have shaken off some sickness to take his place in the midfield.

Elsewhere, Rob Herring is back after following return to play protocols in the wake of the home win over Harlequins as are Kyle McCall and Rodney Ah You, who have been out rather longer.

However, sickness and injury has taken its toll with Sean Reidy, Chris Henry, Tommy Bowe, John Andrew, Luke Marshall, Matty Dalton, Rory Best and Jared Payne all on the missing list.

Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are both rested after starting last weekend's debacle.

As for the security of his own position should Ulster's season - which has been far from impressive performance-wise despite only having lost four games - go into freefall in this critical block of PRO14 derbies and final two group games in Europe, there was some diplomacy and defiance.

"The noise is out there and I understand it," Kiss said of the growing criticism of his tenure.

"We always feel pressure. It's not something you escape.

"It's something like a weird nature in us as beasts, something you revel in as well.

"You want to be able to stand up to it and fight against it.

"But, ultimately, it isn't about me. It's about the team, and my job along with the coaches is to go get it together and crystallise what this means to us this week and then do the job on Monday.

"That's been my focus.

"There is criticism, and that's fine, but my job is to not be sucked into that vortex.

"My job is to stay on this and I believe what we're doing is the right thing and now we've got to respond on Monday," he said.

At least Kiss has head coach Jono Gibbes back on board as he has returned from a Christmas break in New Zealand, which is no bad thing as the squad attempt to avoid back-to-back reverses against Irish provinces which, if achieved, would sit horribly alongside October's Kingspan defeat at the hands of Leinster who, as it happens, they travel to play five days after Munster.

Ulster need to bounce back with fire and fury - and not just because the pressure is growing on their coach - as there is currently precious little wriggle room in the Conference B table now that Edinburgh are just three adrift of Kiss's third-placed side.

And with leaders Scarlets and second-placed Leinster stretching further ahead after their recent wins, Kiss and his Ulster players really don't want to be scrapping it out to stay in third for a much-needed play-off place.

Much seems to hinge on just how New Year's Day pans out for Ulster.

Ulster vs Munster

Guinness PRO14 Championship

Kingspan Stadium, Monday, 5:35pm

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