A dramatic weekend of European action opens tonight in Ravenhill when Ulster take on Northampton in the final Pool 6 match with a place in the quarter-finals on offer.
A dramatic weekend of European action opens tonight in Ravenhill when Ulster take on Northampton in the final Pool 6 match with a place in the quarter-finals on offer. Not only do Ulster have to win but they have to hammer home the tries if they are to gain a quarter-final spot and deny Northampton in the process.
Ulster need a performance reminiscent of previous games at this venue. The ones that immediately spring to mind are those wonderful games against Toulouse and Stade Francais back in January 1999 when the Ulster side confounded the pundits who gave them little chance against the aristocrats of French rugby.
Coach Alan Solomons has urged his side to ignore the various qualification possibilities and concentrate on winning the match itself.
“If my players were to think in terms of how many tries they have to score they would completely lose focus and their rugby would suffer. It would be a recipe for disaster if we were to approach the match in that frame of mind. They must be patient, concentrate on getting the basics right and hopefully everything else will follow.”
Match-winning try scorer against Biarritz, former Wallaby Peter Jorgensen has been selected in the Northampton starting XV. Jorgensen came off the bench last weekend, to snatch the winner but the centre has been reinstated to the starting line-up for this vital match. The Saints will still be without flankers Andrew Blowers and Budge Pountney, so the pack remains unchanged from last weekend’s.
In the backs though, 22-year-old James Brooks will start on the wing in the place of Oriol Ripol.
Brooks came on as a replacement for the Spanish flyer last weekend.
Head coach Wayne Smith said: We are treating this game in the same way we treated our league game against Leicester at Welford Road. Ulster have a great record in Ravehill and we are fully aware that only a top notch performance will get us through to the next phase.”
One thing that Northampton can be sure of is that when they step onto the pitch at Ravenhill, what will follow will be an atmosphere they have proably never experienced before. Once again Ulster’s marvellous support can help to carry their side over the winning line.
Ulster. Bryn Cunningham; James Topping, Ryan Constable, Shane Stewart, Sheldon Coulter; David Humphreys, Neil Doak; Robbie Kempson, Matt Sexton, Simon Best; Gary Longwell, Jeremy Davidson; Andy Ward (capt), Neil McMillan, Tony McWhirter.
Replacements: Justin Fitzpatrick, Paul Shields, Mark Blair, Russell Nelson, Kieran Campbell, Jan Cunningham, Scott Young.
Northampton Saints. Nick Beal; James Brooks, Peter Jorgensen, John Leslie (capt),
Ben Cohen; Paul Grayson, Matt Dawson; Tom Smith, Steve Thompson, Matt Stewart; Steve Williams, Rob Hunter; Grant Seely, Mark Soden, Mark Connors.
Dan Richmond, Chris Budgen, Robbie Morris, Jon Phillips, Ian Vass, Mark Tucker, Jon Sleightholme.