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Scarlets scare leaves Ulster awaiting Covid test results as Dan McFarland praises squad effort

 

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Emerging talent: Stewart Moore is one of Ulster’s many successes this season

Emerging talent: Stewart Moore is one of Ulster’s many successes this season

Emerging talent: Stewart Moore is one of Ulster’s many successes this season

Ulster face an anxious wait today regarding Monday's game at Edinburgh  after it was revealed that the Scarlets, the province's opponents last Sunday evening at the Kingspan, are dealing with an outbreak of Covid-19.

The Scarlets announced yesterday that their meeting with Leinster - to have been played on Sunday - has been postponed after what was described as a small number of players tested positive for the  virus.

Ulster's squad yesterday underwent routine testing with the results of this process being known today which will determine whether they can travel to take on Edinburgh in round eight of the PRO14.

Meanwhile, even though the Scarlets took Ulster to the edge and could - and maybe even should - have won, the province's seventh victory from the same number of games is still a pretty good look.

Now, they are hoping to take this attention-grabbing run of form to Edinburgh on Monday, the scene, of course, of that dramatic PRO14 semi-final result back in September when Ian Madigan sealed the deal.

And all seems even better when you consider that Dan McFarland's squad are just two points off having taken the absolute maximum that could have been gathered up from the seven rounds played so far; a situation which sees them nestled in closely behind Leinster - who else? - who lead Conference A after accumulating the full 35 points.

As Ulster are 20 ahead of nearest Conference challengers the Ospreys, that close-call they had last Sunday will hardly cause huge alarm at the Kingspan nor indeed halt McFarland's rotational policy which - though there has been some necessity to it - has further accelerated the all important integration of young players into the squad.

Whether that be the emerging talent of Stewart Moore and Ethan McIlroy or the further exposure of James Hume, Michael Lowry and Tom O'Toole, this is the direction Ulster are rightly taking and the younger ones are expected to be up to speed along with those more experienced players who are being similarly rotated.

"We have a lot of cohesion in the squad, we've guys that have been together a long time and they should all know their roles," said McFarland

"Guys are expected to be able to do their job when they jump into the squad, even if they haven't played for a few weeks."

One of the focuses of this week will doubtless have been Ulster's lack of discipline, after coughing up 13 penalties against the Scarlets who conceded three.

"I think we gave seven away in a row in a 15-minute period," said McFarland of last Sunday evening.

"There were a couple of dodgy ones in there but that's what fed them (the Scarlets). It piggy-backed them into positions where they could score.

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"It didn't allow us to bring pressure at the other end of the field where we were actually quite successful when we were in their 22," added McFarland, who is well aware that much improvement on the penalty concession front, whether the decision is fair or not, will have to be produced when away from home.

With an injury list that now includes Luke Marshall and six squad members away with Ireland, McFarland will be eager for another positive result from the Scottish capital ahead of Ulster's first European ventures which arrive next month.

Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill also looks certain to still be without a host of Scotland players as he goes in search of a third straight victory.

"I'd love to be in Ulster's position where you have a deep squad and bigger budgets and you lose five or six guys to the Test team," he said.


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