Belfast Telegraph

Soper is tipping Stockdale to bounce back

Top class: Kingspan, as official sponsors of Ulster Rugby, hosted a coaching masterclass in The Wallace High School Preparatory, after the school won a competition organised by the sponsors. Craig Gilroy, Ian Nagle, Rob Lyttle and skills coach Dan Soper were on hand to put the students through their paces
Top class: Kingspan, as official sponsors of Ulster Rugby, hosted a coaching masterclass in The Wallace High School Preparatory, after the school won a competition organised by the sponsors. Craig Gilroy, Ian Nagle, Rob Lyttle and skills coach Dan Soper were on hand to put the students through their paces

By Michael Sadlier

That epic European quarter-final is firmly in the rear view mirror now and yet it is hard to move on to fully embrace the Guinness PRO14 run-in.

Ulster lost a game they should have won and Leinster know they are fortunate to be in the semis and even more blessed in facing Toulouse in Dublin.

So be it, but those lingering issues for Ulster? Jacob Stockdale's moment to forget at the Aviva and the sight of captain Rory Best on crutches after his early ankle injury are still hanging around as Ulster prepare to face Glasgow Warriors away in a crucial PRO14 showdown in their bid to secure second position in Conference B.

Ulster skills coach Dan Soper knew this line of questioning would still be coming and dealt with it all without flinching.

First up was Best and his situation regarding the remainder of Ulster's season. It was addressed easily enough, Soper stating the 36-year-old was awaiting the prognosis.

A reasonably sound assumption is that Best certainly won't be playing on Friday.

And what of Stockdale? There was a hint he might be back out there to try and down Glasgow.

"I guess when you are a player like Jacob at some stage there is going to be a bump on the road," said Soper. "As a group, (losing to Leinster) was one of a number of errors that we made. Jacob will bounce back because he is going to get another opportunity to score, hopefully, this weekend.

"He has got to dust himself down and move on, as we all do. If you asked anybody in the squad who they would want to be on the end of the line to finish off a score this Friday night, I'm sure they're going to pick Jacob.

"He is a strong character. Jacob will be keen to be playing."

For now, it is all about Glasgow and winning there to stay in second with two games to go.

"The guys want to be in big games like that (Leinster) again and we are in a position to put ourselves there," Soper added, referring to the PRO14 table.

Injury-wise, Marcell Coetzee will also hopefully be fine after departing early last Saturday, though tighthead prop Wiehahn Herbst will not feature again as he has been released by Ulster to join Super Rugby side the Vodacom Bulls.

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