Ulster Rugby v Benetton Rugby


“We expect a fierce battle tonight, Benetton aren’t an easy team to get on top of early...”

INTERVIEW: LES KISS totally different thrust in terms of how we go about our business and what we focus on. I’ve no doubt that the players are enjoying the different challenge that comes with it, they’ve engaged well with the new processes and methods that we’ve put in place. Take us through the season so far. With 10 games down, how do you feel Ulster have performed? “We’re really happy where we are in terms of the ladder - currently 6 from 8 in the PRO14 which puts us second in the conference. “As a new coaching team we’ve worked on a lot of new shapes and new ideas so to get through that first period and finish up second in the conference is very pleasing as it confirms the solid progression in the areas that we’ve been working on. That’ll make us shift our focus a little bit now, we can move to other components of our game and start working on some of those in more depth. “At this stage, it’s a good place for us to be. We’ve scored a lot of tries, which we’re obviously very happy with. We’ve probably conceded a couple too many tries for the year, but we’re still winning the games and that’s what’s important.” And the changes you envisaged by altering the coaching set up – do you feel they are starting to come to fruition? “Without doubt as a coaching team we’ve really gelled well and come together. There has been a “The other impact that it’s had is a massive culture shift internally within the group. It’s something that we’re very protective of. There’s a strong core coaching team but the wider management group are equally vital and I am very happy with their commitment to driving the right standards of excellence in our culture. “What Jono [Gibbes] has brought to the table has been sensational, he knows the game very well and his strengths are being realised in the team. Dwayne’s [Peel] recent time in the game is an advantage as he sees the game through the eyes of a player and he has brought some exceptionally good ideas to the backs and attack play. And Aaron [Dundon] has done a really good job with our scrum. I think that platform has been solid all year and Niall Malone has really enjoyed the shape of our coaching team, adding his superb analysis expertise. “As I’ve said, we’re pretty happy with where we are but we would like to make sure that we challenge ourselves in this next period. It will be exceptionally tough but that is where we will find out more about each other as coaches and a management team.”

It’s back to business tonight as we’re set to take on Benetton. What do you think they will bring to the pitch this weekend? “It’s an interesting one. I think Treviso have taken a lot of teams by surprise and challenged a lot of teams in ways they previously hadn’t. Toulon just beat them by a point, they pushed Bath all the way and they pushed Scarlets all the way, and that was at Scarlets, so they offer a strong challenge. “You’re seeing a team that believe in themselves a lot more, they’ve got good strong basics and they have the ability to put you under pressure in a unique way. Their defence is solid, but probably the biggest strength is their kicking game. They kick a lot from their area and force you to make tough decisions from a high ball. They have 31 internationals in their squad so I have no doubts it’s going to be a formidable challenge tonight.” With a number of players off fulfilling their Irish duties and with injuries, we have seen a shake up in the team sheet. Can you tell us a little about that? “Yes, there has been some movement for sure. A few more injuries have landed on our plate, that in itself forces change and when you make one change it can sometimes effect other change as you’re trying to get the right combinations. “Wiehahn [Herbst] and Rodney [Ah You] are both out of action for at least another 2 to 3 weeks and our other tighthead Johnny Simpson will also be unavailable for 5 or 6 weeks. So we are certainly going deep into our tighthead area so we have to rely on our depth with Ross Kane starting and Andy Warwick covering from the bench. “With Rory away on international duty, it is fantastic that Rob Herring has been made available to return from national duties and he will come off the bench for John Andrew who has been so solid all season for us when called upon. Chris Henry has a shoulder injury so he has been ruled out, but Nick Timoney comes back so it gives us a chance to see him back in action. Robbie Diack is also ruled out with injury and Matty Rea is carrying a slight shoulder injury that has restricted his training during the week. That being the case, we will see a debut from Aaron Hall who starts at openside, whilst Greg Jones and Matthew Dalton will cover backrow and lock respectively. It is a fantastic opportunity to see these three exciting young players from our Academy system showing their wares tonight. “In the backs, Luke Marshall has an issue with his achilles and is probably going to be unavailable



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