With a long injury list and a trip to the two-time European champions coming up, you could forgive Ulster head coach Neil Doak for feeling down on his luck.
It has been an unprecedented season so far for absentees and with European Champions Cup qualification gone, Ulster’s sole focus is on the GUINNESS PRO12. That said, the province still have to focus on their remaining pool matches against both Toulon and Leicester Tigers and Neil Doak says, with the pressure off, they are two games that he is encouraging his side to enjoy.
“When you are playing against a star-studded side, it is difficult when you don’t have full resources. We know that it’s not going to be easy this weekend but we have nothing to lose,” said Doak, ahead of Saturday’s meeting at the Stade Félix Mayol.
“It s an exciting place to go to. Toulon are the champions of Europe and the boys are looking forward to it. Europe is gone for us and we want to work on the things that we have been trying in training. We will go and try and stretch them and we are just aiming to focus on ourselves and use the ball wisely.”
Toulon proved at Kingspan Stadium in October that they have remarkable strength in depth. Household names Juan Smith, James O’Connor and Bakkies Botha were all replacements in that game which finished in a 23-13 defeat for the Ulstermen.
“We know that we are not on the same plain as Toulon in terms of the resources. It is unfortunate with the resources that we have. We are stretched and a lot of guys have played a lot of rugby. They know that we are pushing the limits,” added Doak.
“That’s frustrating because I know that if we had a full squad then a few of those games would have turned out differently with fresher legs. The pressure is off us in the game and we just have to go over there, be as fresh as we can and come back here for Leicester the following week.
“It is a little bit strange with no realistic chance of qualifying but European games are always exciting. We have nothing to lose and the pressure is on Toulon. We have to make sure that we use the ball and if we get in for a few scores – who knows?”