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Ulster coach Doak sounds a European Champions Cup warning

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's participation in next year's European Champions Cup and this season's Guinness Pro12 top four play-offs are under threat unless results immediately improve, Kingspan head coach Neil Doak has warned.

The province can take nothing for granted after falling to seventh in the Pro12 table.

If the season ended today, Ulster would make neither the domestic play-offs or next season's Champions Cup and, even with two thirds of the campaign still to play, Doak has flagged the need to start picking up results immediately ahead of Edinburgh's visit to Kingspan Stadium tomorrow night (7.35 kick-off).

With all four of the Pro12's competing countries having to be represented in Europe's top competition, including the lowly Italians, it is likely that only a top six finish would seal Champions Cup qualification for Ulster and Doak maintains that a Pro12 league semi-final berth remains the minimum requirement, particularly with perennial strugglers Connacht on the march.

"You saw Connacht at the weekend beating Munster away, it's a great result for them and it just shows the improvement across the board," he said.

"Edinburgh themselves lost to Zebre away. It's not going to be an easy ride all year for anyone.

"Obviously our goal at the start of the year is that, minimum, we're in the Pro12 top four and ideally we want to win the league. It's early in the season, but we're under no illusions about how big a game Friday is for us to get back to winning ways, especially at home."

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