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Ulster's PRO14 momentum will be vital ingredient in quest to topple classy Wasps, insists Peel

By Jonathan Bradley

With Europe now only two days away, Ulster assistant coach Dwayne Peel is satisfied his side are heading in the right direction just in time for the crucial visit of Wasps on Friday night (7.45pm kick-off).

For the past three years the province have been unable to begin their European campaign with a win but, having triumphed in five of six league contests to start the season, they carry some degree of momentum into the Champions Cup this time around.

And Peel, part of a back-room shake-up that also saw Les Kiss recruit Jono Gibbes and Aaron Dundon this summer, believes that new methods are starting to bear fruit.

"We are working hard on our game and I think the positive for us is what we are seeing in training is now coming through in games," said the former Wales international and Lion.

"I think in periods of games we have been very, very good if I'm honest.

"I know it is about us finishing off some phases of play, but all in all we are fully content with where we are at the moment.

"We have won five from six games in the PRO14, so from that perspective we are content with where we are but we also know we are a long way off from where we need to be and where we want to get to.

"At the moment I think we are progressing fairly well."

Admitting that the side need to develop a more ruthless streak after seeing a number of visits to Connacht's '22' last week yield no reward, the former Scarlets and Sale scrum-half is pleased with the attacking intent shown by his newly inherited backline.

"What is promising from that perspective is that we are creating a lot of things to get in there. It is about conversion and a bit of patience," he said.

"It is about us going out there and trying to express ourselves in the way we want to play and we are content from where we are."

While Ulster got a first-hand look at Wasps in August's pre-season friendly, which they lost 26-15, Peel has more experience than most with the Coventry-based outfit having played in England, as well as arriving in Belfast only after coaching at Bristol.

"I suppose I am quite familiar with them as a team and their style of play," he said.

"They like to play an expansive game and they have got some pacy guys in the back three.

"It has been a part of it, we have concentrated on them, but more so on ourselves in areas we need to get right against them both in attack and defence.

"Wasps were Premiership finalists last year (losing in extra-time to Exeter) and we know they are a quality side and it will be a big challenge for us.

"They are a star studded squad, even though they have a few injuries at the minute.

"They bring their own danger in terms of the back three and playing with width.

"It is going to be a good challenge to stop the ball getting to them and, when they have the ball, defending them well.

"(Danny) Cipriani is out, I know that, but they had a few guys back last week from injury and I am sure they will be very strong coming here. They'll be close to fully-loaded.

"I think as a player, it was always a great time of the year with the European Cup fixtures and now the Champions Cup this week.

"It is similar as a coach, I think it is obviously a big game for us.

"It's good for us and a good challenge for us to see where we are at I suppose.

"Hopefully we are up to that challenge on Friday night."

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