Belfast Telegraph

Leinster are toughest nut to crack but my boys will relish challenge: Campbell


Keeping the faith: Ulster ‘A’ head coach Kieran Campbell has the belief that his side can cause an upset against Leinster
Keeping the faith: Ulster ‘A’ head coach Kieran Campbell has the belief that his side can cause an upset against Leinster

By Michael Sadlier

The terrain facing Ulster 'A' tomorrow could hardly be more demanding.

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They have, to their credit, made it to the Celtic Cup final but, there, they face holders Leinster 'A', at Donnybrook, who have torn through this season's re-structured tournament swatting aside all opponents.

This time the campaign has been organised as a straight league - the Celtic Cup being cooked up by the Irish and Welsh from the remnants of the defunct British and Irish Cup - with Leinster easily finishing top after seven games and Ulster managing second place to earn the right for a straight shoot-out with the silverware at stake.

Leinster have accumulated the maximum number of points available during the league stage from their seven matches, while scoring 55 tries, and put Ulster to the sword last month, at Donnybrook, by a margin of 55-24. The only other defeat Ulster have suffered was last week's 31-12 reverse to Munster 'A' at Shaw's Bridge, a game which was already a dead rubber as Kieran Campbell's squad could not be overhauled by Connacht Eagles.

As for tomorrow, Ulster were to name their side today, Campbell can only concur over the size of the task while emphasising that Ulster do not intend to lie down when facing their hosts.

"They've (Leinster) been the best team in the tournament, let's not fudge it," he said.

"We understand the size of the challenge when we play Leinster but I think it's something the guys can rise to.

"We've got to hold on to the fact that we have evolved and had some very good performances and on the road.

"Hopefully we can take Leinster to a place in the game that no one else has yet."

The preparation has gone well this week, with the Munster result firmly put to bed, allowing Campbell and assistant coach Willie Anderson to instil belief and a game-plan for Dublin.

"Dan (McFarland) has supported us this week even though he's in South Africa," Campbell said.

"With the preparation the guys have had, they are in a position to put a healthy challenge together."

It's a one-off game, with a trophy on offer at the end of it so anything could happen, especially if Ulster come out with all guns blazing, keep their discipline and all-important accuracy.

The bonus point they collected at Donnybrook last month is also seen as a sign that Ulster can discomfort the clear favourites.

The competition has seen Ulster unearth some genuine young talent with schoolboy Nathan Doak shining, along with recent school leavers Ethan McIlroy, Tom Stewart and Conor Rankin.

"We have a clear game-plan and there are areas we will go after," said Campbell.

"We're realistic about the challenge, but there is a genuine belief among the young guys that they can perform at this level.

"Every time we've had a blip, we've bounced back and no doubt we'll bounce back again tomorrow with the resilience and robustness from this group as was seen with our last-gasp win at Scarlets.

"They also dragged out that try bonus at Leinster by sticking to the task," he added.

Few expect anything but a Leinster victory which gives Ulster a chink of light to work with.

Belfast Telegraph


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