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Ulster Rugby can do more

By Niall Crozier

With Ulster committed to ending an eight-year trophy drought, coach Mark Anscombe knows his players can take a step in the right direction by beating Benetton Treviso at Stadio Monigo in the second of their back-to-back Heineken Cup matches this weekend.

All those who played in the 48-0 grilling of the Italians at Ravenhill will be available for Saturday afternoon's Pool Five re-match.

"All the boys who were available at the weekend will be available again," Anscombe confirms.

He is a stoical man when it comes to injuries.

"No point getting down about it, it's part and parcel of the game," he replies when asked how he manages to keep his spirits up.

"I've been around the game long enough to know that there are some things you just can't change.

"I know my worrying isn't going to make a player recover any quicker," he reasons.

"But what I can direct my energies to is instilling confidence in the guy who is being given a chance to play, hopefully help him to back himself and get his head away from the idea that he's only in because somebody else is injured.

"It may look like that and it may end up like that, but my message to the player is, 'Don't you treat it like that'. I want him to say, 'I'm going to show you that I want more of this; I'm going to make it hard for you to leave me out'."

Highlighting two players who did just that on Saturday night, he adds: "Sean (Doyle) filled in at seven at the weekend and did a great job. And Rob (Herring) was outstanding at hooker. They're still young men, both only 22-23."

Right now, Ulster are bang on target in the Heineken Cup and, crucially, in control of their destiny.

"Three from three, 13 points and there's only one other team in the Heineken Cup who can say that and that's Leinster," Anscombe reminds you.

"And if we get a good performance at the weekend and do what we set out to do, there's no reason why we can't go into the break as top team in our pool.

"If we see to the things we can control, then no matter what happens anywhere else we'll be where we want to be.

"I'm not going to waste energy or lose sleep or concern myself with things I've no control over; there's nothing I can do about what happens in the Montpellier-Leicester game.

"But if we keep winning, we will qualify, it's as simple as that. That's our number one target, to qualify. Our second one is that if we qualify, we get a home tie. Those are the only things we need worry about."

Last season, his first at the province's rudder, Anscombe steered his side to away day, pool stage victories over Northampton Saints, Glasgow and Castres, with the last of that trio of triumphs having been Ulster's first ever competitive victory in France.

Refusing to dwell on that impressive hat-trick, he says: "The challenge is getting the best out of the guys when they're fit and available.

"You can't flog them to death; it's about keeping them fresh, excited about the challenges you're putting in front of them and focused on what they, as individuals, can do better. The easiest thing, for the people who haven't performed, is to get caught up in the team performance.

"When they do that they think everything's good, so they forget those two missed tackles or that poor pass.

"We've looked at a lot of clips (of last weekend's game) and we created a lot of chances, but we put pressure on ourselves by not completing them. Those are things we can improve on and we expect better than that.

"Yes we scored some good tries, yes we played some good rugby. But we can be better."

Be warned, Treviso – Anscombe wants perfection.

Belfast Telegraph


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