When asked this week how to go about beating Leinster, Dan McFarland jokingly replied: “Don’t ask the All Blacks.”
And while most of the 12-strong contingent from the RDS Arena that beat New Zealand in Ireland colours two weeks ago are missing for the hosts in Dublin tonight, the task at hand is no less challenging.
This is not the first time Ulster have travelled south to face what is theoretically an under-strength Leinster side due to the IRFU’s player management, but this evening’s hosts have won 10 of their last 11 against their northern neighbours, including all three last season.
“You have to match them in intensity, both physically in the collisions but also in your speed of movement around the park,” said McFarland.
“We’re not a team that is going to overpower them with brute force the way that La Rochelle have done. We have a particular way of playing, which does involve winning gain-line, quick ball, movement of ball. We have to be able to get that right.
“They’re a team who are extremely adept at slowing things down and that’s a battle we have to win. In addition to that, we have to be smart in the way that we play in the middle third of the field.
“Their defence really forces you into errors and we’ve got to limit those or be very careful how we play the territory around the field. It’s an extremely big challenge but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”
At the RDS, Ulster’s struggles have been even more pronounced. They have not won there since 2013, with the most painful defeat among the run coming only a few months after that victory in the PRO12 final.
“I don’t think it’s the venue,” said McFarland, whose predecessor Mark Anscombe was the last Ulster coach to beat Leinster away.
“They’re an excellent team but they’ve lost there to Ospreys and Connacht in the recent past. The RDS is a good stadium but to win games you’ve to be a good team.
“Playing at home, they’ll enjoy that, they’ll have a good crowd, and they’re an extremely good team so we’ll have to be on our mettle.”