HAVING broken their RDS hoodoo, the job for Ulster is to replicate the winning performance against Leinster when they make the trip to Wales to face Ospreys at the Swansea.com Stadium on Saturday (3pm, live on Premier Sport).
The manner of that win in Dublin last Saturday put their sole defeat to Connacht firmly behind them and they travel to face an Ospreys side who will also be smarting from a defeat against then Westerners when falling to a 46-18 defeat in Galway last week.
The Welsh side may have a number of their internationals back this weekend, but they will be hosting an Ulster side brimming with confidence after that win over Leinster that leaves them in a tie for top spot.
New signing Duane Vermullen has arrived in Belfast, but the South African World Cup winner isd unable to join the squad having tested positive for Covid-19, although his arrival has given a further boost to the squad this week.
The job for Dan McFarland’s men will be to hit the same level of performance as last week and forwards coach Roddy Grant says they can’t drop their guard in Swansea.
“That’s pro sport - if you have a good result it’s how you get up mentally from that,” he said on Monday.
“It wasn’t perfect and there are areas we can focus on where we need to be better. The opposition we are playing now helps with that motivation as Ospreys are going really well in the league and had some good wins.
“You will probably get a backlash after their result at Connacht like we did so it’s pretty easy to get across in meetings and in the forwards meeting this morning, the guys spoke really passionately.
“It was a great result, but there’s huge areas for improvement so it’s an easy one for us to kick on as that’s not us at the pinnacle of performance.”
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In so many recent big games, Leinster have had Ulster’s number so turning that around last week will have given all huge confidence they can push on this season and make a challenge for honours.
They will host the same opposition on New Year’s Day, but before that there are some huge clashes domestically and in Europe, beginning this week with the trip to Wales.
“We’ll see as a group if that gives us confidence as we go on against them,” added Grant.
“That’s the first time I’ve beaten Leinster as an Ulster coach and I think just the second time as a player or a coach in north of 10 games.
“Hopefully it is the Roger Bannister example of breaking the four-minute mike and then everyone does it. “James Hume was talking about that and hopefully it’s a similar think to Ireland beating New Zealand as they have had a good run of it over the last few times.
“With the young players there are no scars so it’s good having these good memories at the start and hopefully we can build on it.”
Ospreys will be smarting from their defeat in Connacht but Ulster experienced similar when failing to fire at the Aviva Stadium before the international break and the Welsh outfit, who have had a fairly good campaign aside from last weekend, will be determined to prove a point, just as Ulster were last week.
“We were really poor against Connacht, our worst game in I don’t know how long, then we were a very different team against Leinster,” Grant reflected.
“I’m not taking anything from Connacht as they played really well against Ospreys so you can’t take that game in isolation as they have had some really good wins, tight wins, and have some big players.
“They are a big, physical pack and could have some of the Welsh players back this week.”
Striking the balance of parking last week’s win in Leinster and taking confidence from it will be key going forward as the performance and preparation that led to the 20-10 win can be used as a template of what is needed to push on.
Retaining that edge is crucial and with those players who did not see action at the weekend keen to force their way into the team on to of the arrival of Vermullen, Grant is hopeful they will get it right again this week before back-to-back European games.
“It’s always a balance in any sport,” he agreed.
“You look at what went well and what went wrong. Not just in the game, but what went well in our week’s prep both from training and tactics through to mindset.
“There are so many different layers to look at and if you can nail them and know it works. You have a better chance of repeating in the future if you do that part of it this week.
“You are still going to be confident going into something, but there’s always that balance of complacency and being on edge. Edge is a good place as that’s where you get growth.
“Making a couple of changes means you get hungry people in, so there a number of things you can do for a week, but it’s that balance.”