Ex-Ulster star Paddy Wallace backs his former side to get the job done over Connacht
FORMER ULSTER hero Paddy Wallace is backing his old side to do keep their strong season going in today's PRO14 quarter-final with Connacht.
The western province have already beaten Dan McFarland's men twice this season but Wallace, who retired as his side's record appearance holder, believes this evening's hosts have turned a corner since then.
"I'll have to wear my Ulster hat," said the man who'll be on the mike for Premier Sports when asked for a prediction.
"Given where the province was last year, to make it out of the pool in Europe and to be pushing on from December onwards has been great to see.
"When we're full strength, not when we're throwing weakened sides down to Galway or Dublin, we've been very competitive.
"It's fantastic to see as an Ulster supporter to see that turnaround. They've really turned a corner.
"You could see that in Dublin (in the Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster). Unfortunately, they were pipped at the post but it shows how far the team has come in a short space of time. That bodes well for the future.
"The real positive has been the inclusion of the Academy players. You saw that last week (in the league win over Leinster). Guys nobody had heard of at the start of the year are playing and that's what you need to get you through two campaigns.
"That's what we've lacked, strength in depth and a lot of credit has to go to Kieran (Campbell, academy coach) and the direction that Ulster have taken to give them their chances."
In those past meetings this season, Connacht have really had the upper hand in the scrums though and Wallace believes injured tight-head Marty Moore will be a big miss for Ulster.
"I've been going through the analysis for the build-up to our coverage on Saturday and Ulster have come a long way since being turned over by Connacht in October," said Wallace.
"Looking back one thing that stands out is how dominant the Connacht scrum was that night, three Ulster scrums and three penalties and dominant on their own ball.
"Marty Moore came in then and really solidified the scrum, Eric O'Sullivan too. From there the Ulster scrum was much more consistent and much more of a weapon.
"With Marty being injured, that's the area of concern for Ulster. I'm sure it's where Connacht will focus with (Finlay) Bealham and (Denis) Buckley trying to cause havoc."
Paddy Wallace is part of the Premier Sports team for its live coverage of Ulster v Connacht in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday 4th May. Tune in from 5.15pm on Premier Sports 1 for the best coverage, analysis and all the inside track brought to you by Graham Little, Mark Robson, Will Slattery, Paddy Wallace and Bernard Jackman.
Premier Sports is home of the Guinness PRO14 in the UK with all 152 games from the Guinness PRO14 live on its channels. Rugby fans can subscribe on Sky or the Premier Sports Player for £9.99 per month. As well as all the PRO14 rugby action, Premier Sports customers can also enjoy live coverage of football’s Scottish Cup, Serie A and La Liga football and NHL as well as a host of other sports. Visit www.premiersports.com to sign up to see all the live action.
Belfast Telegraph Digital