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I'm glad the Ulster fans are on my side now, says scrum coach Dundon



Ulster Rugby's Aaron Dundon. Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

Ulster Rugby's Aaron Dundon. Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

All set: Ulster’s new scrum specialist Aaron Dundon is getting to grips with the challenge he faces in his new job at the Kingspan Stadium. Photo: James Crombie/INPHO

All set: Ulster’s new scrum specialist Aaron Dundon is getting to grips with the challenge he faces in his new job at the Kingspan Stadium. Photo: James Crombie/INPHO

©INPHO/James Crombie


Ulster Rugby's Aaron Dundon. Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

Having only previously experienced Kingspan Stadium as a visitor, Ulster's new scrum specialist Aaron Dundon has been enjoying life in the home coaches' box.

The native Kiwi made 49 appearances for Leinster in his time at the RDS Arena, including his 2010 debut in what was then Ravenhill, before cutting his coaching teeth with a spell at Grenoble.

And when Les Kiss came calling last summer, it was memories of his playing days that had the 35-year-old so keen to make the move to Belfast.

"I've had some interesting times up here as a player," he recalled with a chuckle. "I didn't really like coming here to play, I always found it a tough place to play and the supporters always got on your back a bit.

"I knew what Ulster Rugby was about, playing against them and watching them for years while I was with Leinster.

"I'm enjoying having the supporters on my side at the moment now.

"I was on the bench a couple of times for Leinster and the supporters were great."

Dundon is one three new coaches who have been part of the province's four from four start to the season, with Jono Gibbes and Dwayne Peel also joining Les Kiss's ticket this summer.

"With Kissy, and even the initial chats I had with Jono, they sold what they want to do with Ulster and it was an easy decision for me," he added on the new blend of the coaching mix. "So far I've really been enjoying it.

"It's great to link up with Les and Jono again, and then getting to know Peely too. It's a good team. At the moment we're working well together.

"I think the structures and the systems we're bringing in are slowly coming about and the boys are responding well to it."

A big part of that system, Dundon explains, is a greater emphasis on forward carries, with the former hooker believing the early returns have been promising with his side boasting one of only two undefeated records left in the Guinness PRO14.

"The main thing is the system we're using. During pre-season, I think we struggled a little bit with it but the boys didn't get disheartened.

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"They kept working away and the last couple of weeks there have been glimpses of it coming through. We've still got more to show but, hopefully, game by game we keep getting better.

"The main thing is the carrying. We've made a point of carrying north. There's a lot of boys starting to get that and you can see by the number of collisions we're winning. There's still a bit of work there but that's really improved in the last few weeks."

In terms of the carrying game, there are few players Ulster could want out there more than Marcell Coetzee, but the Springbok will once again miss out on this weekend's trip to Zebre (2.35pm kick-off).

It means as October approaches, the 26-year-old has still played just once this season thanks to the same knee that ruined his first year in Belfast.

That outing came in the opening week against the Cheetahs but, while media were told that there were no new injury concerns after that game, Coetzee, as well as Charles Piutau, missed the season's first trip to Italy the next week, a 21-14 win over Treviso.

Both were absent again in the impressive win over Scarlets a week later, with an official release revealing the pair were "expected to return for the fixture against Dragons".

But while All Black Piutau did line out for that one last week, it has been yet another frustrating wait for Coetzee.

"Marcell won't be involved this week," confirmed Dundon.

"He's still got a slight problem with the knee but hopefully he's in the picture for next week. It's a tough one. It's week-by-week management.

"Honestly I don't think he's far away, he trained last week and got through it well. We've got a big four games coming up so we have to make sure he's available for them."

Jared Payne is another who was expected to make the trip to Zebre but won't, although the side will welcome back Luke Marshall, Louis Ludik, Sean Reidy, John Cooney, Christian Leali'ifano and Jean Deysel for the game in Parma.

The Italians are coming off a win over Southern Kings last time out and looking to win back-to-back games for a first time since April.

And while Ulster will be expected to be the ones maintaining momentum by easily seeing off a team they have lost to just once, Dundon says the side are preparing for a test, especially in his area of expertise: the scrum.

"It's going to be a tough challenge," he stressed. "The Italian teams are better this year than they have been in the past.

"They're always difficult at home and they're coming off a good win last week, and the last three or four games they've actually been scoring a lot of tries.

"It's not an easy game, you can't go out there saying you're going there for the five points, you've got to get your basics right, get your set piece right.

"The set piece is very important against these guys, they've got a good scrum and a good maul and if you turn up not ready you could come out on the wrong end of it."

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