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Ulster ready to welcome back Stockdale, Henderson and Murphy for Munster trip

 

Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are expected to play a part in next weekend's PRO14 game at Thomond Park.
Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are expected to play a part in next weekend's PRO14 game at Thomond Park.

By Michael Sadlier

In many regards, the best thing to do about Friday night's 22-7 beating of Zebre was to note it and quickly move on.

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The weather played another strong hand in ruining the game as a potential spectacle with the rain never really letting up and leading to an encounter scarred with errors.

Just how costly Ulster's failure to secure a bonus-point victory will be, of course, a great unknown but it was a really hard slog just to get their four thanks to the combined efforts of the weather, Zebre's obdurate defence and the province's own struggles with their execution.

So, yes, definitely best to move on even though they now sit in second.

The problem, though, is that Munster await on Saturday at Thomond Park and the memory of the 64-7 record tanking they inflicted on Dan McFarland's side in September last year is still hanging around.

"We now go to Munster and we got a hiding there last year and deservedly (so)," said McFarland, who also hinted that Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale and Jordi Murphy may return to action after their activities at the World Cup.

"I'd like to think we can put on a better show there.

"Maybe some coaches will say, 'It's just another game', no it isn't.

"It's an inter-provincial. I suspect there'll be a few international players on Saturday.

"Hopefully we can put on a performance there," added the Ulster head coach.

And what of actually deploying Henderson, Stockdale and, if fit, Murphy?

"The World Cup players are available, whether we play them or not we'll make a decision in the week," he said.

"But I'd say we might integrate them into the team now that we've got Europe coming up."

Munster is the last game prior to the first two rounds of the Champions Cup which start on November 16 at Bath and this Saturday should also see the return of Robert Baloucoune.

As for last Friday, this time the first half was ragged with Zebre taking an early 7-0 lead.

Twenty minutes in and Ulster tied the scores when Luke Marshall put the typically trail-running Dave Shanahan away to run in under the posts.

Bill Johnston converted and then put Ulster ahead with a 32nd-minute penalty which is how it stood - 10-7 - when the half ended.

They got a second score on 51 minutes when a penalty try was awarded and former Ulster player Ian Nagle binned but the home side were unable to take any advantage despite being largely camped in Zebre territory.

The game was finally made safe when Giovanni Licata was shown yellow on 69 minutes, and Johnston's cross-kick allowed Rob Lyttle to collect and score.

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