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Doak plans to end 23 years at Kingspan with a flourish

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster head coach Neil Doak insists he remains fully focused on delivering silverware to the province despite his impending departure. Both he and forwards coach Allen Clarke will be leaving this summer, with former All Black Jono Gibbes and Welshman Dwayne Peel joining the coaching set-up in their place.

But Doak, who has orchestrated one of the PRO12's most prolific attacks during his tenure, has stressed that the end of a professional relationship that dates all the way back to his playing debut in 1995 will have no bearing on his approach to the season's final weeks.

"I haven't got anything sorted out yet (for next season), which is frustrating from my point of view, but I suppose it's just the nature of pro rugby," said the former scrum-half who was also an international cricketer.

"It can be frustrating but you've just got to bide your time and wait for opportunities. Hopefully they come up pretty soon.

"Ideally I would like a little bit of certainty moving forward but I've still got to do a job and make sure the players are prepped as well as they can be," commented Doak.

"It's not difficult for me to put that to one side and just focus on what I can do. I suppose when I think about it (Ulster), it's not a job per se.

"It's what I do. I've been doing it for 23 years.

"It's like getting up in the morning at 7 o'clock. It's just what I do.

"Ultimately as a coach you're serving the players to play the game.

"You're trying to fulfil their goals and help them achieve them. That's my focus and that's what I've been doing for a number of years, so it's still sort of second nature."

Doak is currently helping prepare the side for a crucial battle with Cardiff at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night (7.35pm kick-off) and the team have been boosted by the return to fitness of skipper Andrew Trimble.

The winger broke a bone in his hand against Treviso at the start of last month but aims to get a run-out on Friday as Ulster shoot for a seventh straight win that would maintain their play-off push.

And while long-term absentees such as Marcell Coetzee, Tommy Bowe and Kyle McCall remain on the sidelines, the game will also see returns to Ulster colours for Rory Best, Louis Ludik and Stuart McCloskey, the latter pair having come through last week's 'A' game against Leinster unscathed.

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