Belfast Telegraph

Magners League: Up and at ‘em Ulster battle cry from Fitz

By Ciaran Donaghy

Declan Fitzpatrick looked set to have a big season after starting Ulster's first two Magners League games of the campaign.

He was part of the side that defeated Ospreys on the opening day and he kept his place at tight head prop for the away trip to Aironi but he only lasted four minutes before picking up a calf injury.

As a result, Fitzpatrick's only other appearance came in Monday's defeat against Leinster when he came off the bench for nine minutes. However he will start against Munster tomorrow night at Thomond Park (BBC2, 7.30pm) and he is keen to make up for lost time.

“I was going quite well and had a good run of games and it was disappointing to get an injury against Aironi but they come in rugby,” Fitzpatrick shrugged.

“You just have to make the most of time in the gym. I've been available now for about five weeks but because of the weather I haven't been able to play much rugby. Hopefully I can get a good bit of game time against Munster.”

If Ulster are to go to the league leaders and pull off a victory they will need to improve their defence which has been leaking soft tries in recent games.

“We have to eliminate the errors because we are still creating chances but we are giving early and easy tries to teams — if we can stop that we're going to be competitive,” Fitzpatrick acknowledged.

“We gave away two soft tries at the start against Leinster and then you're always chasing the game and you have to start forcing things.”

Ulster were off the pace against Leinster and Fitzpatrick admits they will have to front up as they face Munster in the passionate cauldron of Thomond Park.

“Teams that have won at Thomond Park have really attacked Munster, the time we won there two season ago we upped the intensity,” he reasoned.

“Munster's philosophy is to try and work harder than their opponents so we have to up our workrate and, with a few fresh faces coming in, everyone is going to be keen.

“We're just going to focus on ourselves, not worry about Munster unduly, and hopefully we can come out on the right side of the result.

“We all need to up our game by five to 10%. I think against Leinster there were just lapses of concentration and we can't afford to do that against inter-provincial sides.

“It's not nice to lose and we are a wounded animal but there is no better place than Thomond Park to go and try to prove yourself.”

Ulster may have slipped to sixth in the Magners League following Monday's defeat but with it being so tight for the play-off places, a win in Munster would put them back in contention. And with wins in Italy, Cardiff and Bath under their belts, the team can take encouragement from their away form this season.

“People may say we're looking to the Biarritz game up ahead in the Heineken Cup but we're not — the Magners is the current priority and the best teams get to the end which is the four at the top.

“Our away form is something we have worked hard on and we have definitely got better at it.

“We've got a few monkeys off our backs by winning in Wales and England, so we are not afraid to away now. If every player does his job and does it right, it will take a good side to beat us.”

Belfast Telegraph


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