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Ulster coach Brian sees benefit in Gnoll new approach

By Niall Crozier

Brian McLaughlin wasn’t entirely being tongue in cheek when he ventured: “We had a great week in France other than the 80 minutes on the pitch.”

What the Ulster coach meant is that he is not allowing his young side’s 40-3 pre-season defeat by Bayonne to detract from a lot of very good preparatory work in the south of France.

“I know that must sound ridiculous, but it’s true,” McLaughlin said as he prepares for tonight test, away to Neath at The Gnoll (7.15pm).

“The week went brilliantly,” he added. “It was time well spent so I’m not going to read too much into the result.

“Bayonne are a top class team and, with two games behind them before they played us, they caught us a bit cold.

“Our line-out was OK but our scrum was poor at times. Our biggest problem, though, was the number of turn-overs. Against a side of Bayonne’s quality you pay for those.”

Ulster turned the ball over on 27 occasions and, as a result, were on a hiding to nothing.

“It was our first match so there were errors,” McLaughlin said. “That’s why it was important that we managed to arrange this game against Neath. Hopefully we can cut out a lot of the mistakes, get the ball rolling again and show them what we’re about.

“It’s another important match is the build-up to our first competitive game on September 2 when we play Glasgow at Ravenhill. All of this pre-season work is done with the start of the season proper in mind.”

Ulster were scheduled to fly to Wales at lunch-time today, returning first thing tomorrow morning.

“Basically it is a straight in and out job — with hopefully a good performance in between,” McLaughlin said.

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