Belfast Telegraph

Ulster are determined to send Rory Best off with 'something special' in PRO14 play-offs: Payne

 

Ulster captain Rory Best.
Ulster captain Rory Best.
Crunch time: Coach Jared Payne says Ulster need to up their game
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster need little reminder of the danger posed by Connacht in this weekend's PRO14 quarter-final at Kingspan Stadium having already lost twice to the westerners this season.

Andy Friend's side beat their northern neighbours in Belfast for the first time in 58 years back in October, doubling up in the reverse fixture at the Sportsground a little over two months later.

And while it will be Dan McFarland's side who are expected to progress on Saturday (5.35pm kick-off) and go on to face Glasgow in the last four, recent experience will leave the hosts cautious.

"They've got one or two threats, don't they?" said Ulster's defence coach Jared Payne after Saturday's 14-13 win over Leinster.

"Bundee (Aki) and Tom (Farrell) in the middle, Jack Carty at ten he's in a pretty rich vein of form.

"And then (Matt) Healy, Tiernan (O'Halloran) and (Cian) Kelleher in the back-three, that's pretty dangerous.

"They beat us twice so we're going to have to up our game to have a chance.

"We've done a little bit (of analysis) but we've been focussed on this group and helping them get the job done (against Leinster). Behind the scenes we've been doing a bit of work."

Rory Best, who is optimistic of overcoming his ankle injury to feature, would be playing a last ever game at Kingspan Stadium before retiring, while defeat would obviously bring down the curtain on his Ulster career.

"It's up to the players whether they mention it or not, I'm sure it will be," said Payne of Best's final days in an Ulster jersey. "To send him off on a high would be something special.

"Hopefully, they can but Besty knows that rugby can be awesome but it can be pretty evil at the same time. He'll do what he normally does, front-up every week and put his best foot forward on the pitch."

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