Ulster head coach Neil Doak says the squad is in a good place as they builds towards the start of the 2016/17 campaign, with a pre-season tie against Leinster in Navan on Saturday week (August 13) first on the agenda.
Speaking from the Ulstermen’s training base in Portugal this week, Neil Doak outlined his desire for the players to maintain the intensity they have delivered over the past month.
“It’s going really well,” enthused the former scrum half. “We’ve adjusted a few plays and added in a few other nuances, so the camp allows us to have a concentrated period were we can get everybody up to speed.
“There’s no distractions. These five days are invaluable as we can get two or three weeks’ work done, and hopefully that will be seen in the pre-season games that we’ve got coming up.”
He continued: “Obviously we had different return dates for different groups of players – senior internationals, Irish Under-20s, the new guys coming in and everyone else. For the internationals the first week has been a little bit of a shock to the system.
“Some of the guys are four weeks ahead of them in terms of training volume so there is always a bit of catch up. But you can see the intensity of training is right up there and that’s what we need.”
Doak has been impressed with how the new signings have integrated into the training environment, and that has left him excited by what they can bring in competitive situations.
“The new guys have been superb. I think the skill sets and experience that they have brought so far will complement the team greatly. It’s a pretty daunting time for them, learning the terminology and how things are done, but they’ve settled in well and I’ve no doubt they’ll be great additions to the squad.”
Newcomers Angus Lloyd, Brett Herron and Charles Piutau have joined a back-line roster that already included 11 internationals, forming a fearsome unit for the season ahead. That strength in depth means selection decisions could be problematic next season, but it’s a nice headache for the coaching panel to have.
“The quality that has progressed through the Academy over the past few years has been superb. It’s a credit to the players and the structures that we have in place. There was a big number of Ulster players in the Irish back-line on the summer tour and they acquitted themselves very well and nearly ended up with a series win in South Africa.
“That bodes well for the future but we’ve got to keep challenging those guys. With more players feeding into the national system, we need another tier below that of similar quality, because we’ve got eight or nine games while the internationals are away and we’ve got to ensure we’re winning games during those periods.”