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Doak Facing ‘A Few Selection Headaches’ For European Opener

Doak Facing ‘A Few Selection Headaches’ For European Opener

There can be few more difficult starts to life as a head coach than matches against Glasgow Warriors, Leicester Tigers and reigning European champions Toulon.

With a win over Glasgow already secured, new Ulster head coach Neil Doak is now concentrating on the second of those huge matches, away to Leicester in the European Rugby Champions Cup next Saturday evening.

“I was pleased with the result against Glasgow and the platform that we had. To keep them from scoring a try was an exceptional performance,” admitted Doak as he reflected on the 29-9 PRO12 win at Kingspan Stadium.

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“I have had a brief look at Leicester. They won again (they beat Harlequins 22-16 at Welford Road on Friday night) and they did so in difficult conditions. They are obviously building as we are. Hopefully it will be a good hit-out on Saturday.”

As head coach, the responsibility of selecting a team now falls on Doak’s shoulders and he has some big selection challenges ahead of Saturday’s opening Pool 3 match.

The former Ulster and Ireland ‘A’ scrum half remarked: “We have quality across the board but we have to manage the squad. We have big games and there are going to be injuries. We have to adapt and there will be a few selection headaches no doubt.”

Two of those selection questions come in the back-line where Stuart McCloskey has been exceptional and Ian Humphreys was in superb form against Glasgow. However, with Stuart Olding and Luke Marshall in the squad and Paddy Jackson back in the selection mix, neither player’s place is assured.

“The big European games are physical. Stuart (McCloskey) has come in and has done a great job for us. He is physical in his carries and defensively he can get in top of players. He’s not overawed by the atmosphere or the situation.

“Ian is a quality player. He is a quality goal kicker – it’s great to have him back. He can dictate the tempo of the game really well and it is good to have Paddy Jackson and Ian competing for that ten jersey.”

Meanwhile, Ulster have confirmed that Andrew Trimble suffered a toe injury during the first half of the Glasgow game. He was scanned today and will undergo further investigation tomorrow. An update on his fitness will be issued later in the week.

Scrum half David Shanahan tore his hamstring playing for Ulster Ravens in Saturday’s British & Irish Cup loss to Aberavon. He will be out of rugby for four to six weeks.

In addition, young Ulster lock Alan O’Connor has been cited for alleged foul play in the 59th minute of the Ulster v Glasgow Warriors match.  

O’Connor has been cited for an alleged action contrary to Law 10.4(e) and 10.4(m). A hearing will be held this week, with the exact details still to be confirmed.

Law 10.4 (e) – Dangerous tackling. A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.

A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s neck or head is dangerous play. 

Law 10.4 (m) – Acts contrary to good sportsmanship. A player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship in the playing enclosure.