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Calm Neil Doak attempts to pull Ulster out of tailspin

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No shouting: Neil Doak says there is no point in losing the rag as Ulster attempt to get back to winning ways

No shouting: Neil Doak says there is no point in losing the rag as Ulster attempt to get back to winning ways

Andrew Fosker/ Seconds Left

No shouting: Neil Doak says there is no point in losing the rag as Ulster attempt to get back to winning ways

Head coach Neil Doak has called for cool heads as Ulster look to arrest their recent slump ahead of the Boxing Day visit from Connacht.

Three losses in the past four games have left his side struggling for form, but Doak sees little point in directing his frustrations toward the players.

He said: "We're still well in the mix and for me to lose the rag, it's not going to effect a lot of change.

"We've just got to make sure that we bring as much energy as we can and as much enthusiasm as we can. "Sometimes you've just got to dig in and ride the waves and come out the other end knowing that you've put in as much effort as you can to effect change on the pitch and get us back to winning ways.

"Look, at certain times you have to ask questions, but I suppose the players will say that over the years I've mellowed out a little bit.

"I can't be losing the rag every time people make mistakes or things don't go right for us.

"The guys are working hard, there's no questioning that.

"Over the last four or five training sessions our intensity in training has been pretty decent, it's just a little bit of accuracy on game day is causing us those few issues."

The inaccuracy that has irked Doak was again evident last weekend as Ulster crashed to a 31-20 defeat to the Ospreys in a game they at one stage trailed by 25 points.

The coach felt his side created some good openings, but failed to take advantage of the chances.

"We created opportunities and haven't taken them, unfortunately. If you look at the Ospreys game we had seven gilt-edged chances and didn't take them.

"If we had have been as accurate as we can be, it could have been six tries to five.

"We've defended pretty well this year and, ironically, the games we've played against the Ospreys before haven't had any tries, but it just went the complete opposite.

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"At times you maybe do things to try and effect change when if you just do your fundamentals and your basics a little bit more accurately then that effects change.

"We just need to be a little more accurate.

"I suppose on the back of a couple of losses certain people are going to get a little bit edgy and think 'do I want to do that?, do I want to try that?' and you do maybe get a bit nervous about going outside things and looking at other options."

For the visit of Connacht, Doak will once again have to contend with a lengthy injury list and there remain doubts as to whether Ruan Pienaar will be fit to take part.

Doak admitted the presence of the star scrum-half would be a major boost on Friday night but he will not find out until today how his knee reacted to yesterday's return to training.

"The initial prognosis probably wasn't great for Ruan but he did a little bit of running this morning so we'll just have to see how he reacts," he said.

"Ruan's kicking game at nine is probably one of the best in the world so, if it's going to be damp conditions, it would be nice to have that skill set available."

Also back in training are Paddy Jackson and Wiehahn Herbst, although it is not clear if either has progressed sufficiently to be named today in the team to face Pat Lam's side, while both Tommy Bowe and Rory Best are almost certain to be rested, in line with IRFU player management procedures.

Doak admitted: "You can't keep playing the big players week in week out.

"They need that time away and time to regroup and get that freshness back in their game.

"That's always been the case. We've got to be sensible with the players as well.

"Certain guys are going to play a lot of high-level rugby and it's key that they get their time away from the game to make sure they're fresh.

"You're always going to have those quandaries. It's a little bit of jigsaw pieces with the minutes."

The only puzzle of concern to Doak this week will be getting Ulster back to winning ways.


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