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Ulster Rugby 2020/2021

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WELL-PAST-IT
Brendan
formerly known as Sam
thebandwagonsociety
LeinsterFan4life
clivemcl
Kingshu
scrummy
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Don Alfonso
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Post by neilthom7 Thu 04 Feb 2021, 8:06 pm

First topic message reminder :

Thought it was time for an update on the thread so this is the new all things Ulster thread.

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Post by Pete330v2 Tue 28 Sep 2021, 11:08 am

It's always difficult to take much from the first couple of games of the season, the squad should be well prepared but it always takes a bit of time to get into their rhythm regardless. McCloskey stood out and was my MOTM, always looking so dangerous and didn't have any off-season rust at all. There was plenty of that rust throughout the rest of the squad but it'll be shaken off quickly and they'll get into their stride. Not the perfect performance but a win against that level of performance from Glasgow is a win I'll take any day of the week.

On to Zebre next, not one to be taken too lightly but a chance perhaps to give Lowry a start at 10 amongst other tinkering to give much needed game time to other squad members who might feel a little rusty.

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Post by Pete330v2 Fri 01 Oct 2021, 12:07 pm

Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, United Rugby Championship Round 2, Saturday 2 October at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 5.15pm (UK / Irish time) kick-off:

(15-9) Will Addison, Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Mick Kearney, Matty Rea, Nick Timoney, David McCann.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Mike Lowry, Ben Moxham.



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Post by neilthom7 Sat 02 Oct 2021, 9:43 am

Giving a lot of guys some game time who didn’t play last week,

They will be looking for 5 points from this so hopefully the team being slightly weakened doesn’t affect that

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Post by scrummy Sat 02 Oct 2021, 2:16 pm

Not our strongest team but then if you're going to give minutes to everybody a Zebre game is probably where you would choose to do it. Connacht and Leinster won't be good games for experiments. I never feel confident when we play away in Italy and these fixtures don't usually turn out to be our greatest performances. Nevertheless, I feel positive in some respects; I think we have two strong front rows, I'm looking forward to seeing how McCann goes, Will Addison can always create something on the counter-attack, I also believe Stewart Moore has a lot of attacking potential. I fwe don't miss tackles and our half-back pairing works well then I would be expecting 5 points.

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Post by clivemcl Sat 02 Oct 2021, 7:54 pm

I’m not best pleased with that at all. I’m ok with giving players game time against some opponents, but I still expect a professional effort.
That, at times, looked worse than a pre-season friendly.
I expect our team, regardless of how big the lead, or how inexperienced to still have the ability to calm it down, take back control, keep it tight... especially after it gets messy and make at least some effort towards attempting solid, well executed rugby.

I just feel it doesn’t come off very professional when our team starts throwing the ball about and aimlessly running around like drunk flies.

Sorry, that probably seems harsh. I just want us to get to the point where our backup team are capable of heading over and tying up a win over zebra in a no-nonsense (even if boring) fashion without too much drama.

There are positives of course, yes, I seen them too, but I do still think my overall feelings are fair and justified.


TLDR: I don’t care how big the lead, or who we have selected, I think we should expect better than chaos.

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Post by neilthom7 Sat 02 Oct 2021, 8:10 pm

It was not a good performance, despite the score the performance was poor, I'll allow a certain amount of leeway given most of the players had not played last week but it was still really poor.

Fairly aimless a lot of time, Benneton will be a much tougher task next time out and performance will have to go up several notches

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Post by scrummy Sat 02 Oct 2021, 10:33 pm

I'm afraid I have to agree with the above. Some of that was hard to watch. I felt some of the back line (I mean James Hume) were trying to force things too much. If I had run sideways as much at school I would have been dropped from the team. And Clive, I don't think you're being harsh; they are all professional rugby players and I expect them to perform as such. Good news is we got 5 points out of that and can learn the lessons in time for Benetton.

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Post by Don Alfonso Mon 04 Oct 2021, 5:41 pm

Think we'll get bate this weekend. Benetton are no mugs and we're missing seven starters.

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Post by The Oracle Mon 04 Oct 2021, 7:32 pm

Hi Ulster fans, are you talking about the Zebre game? 36-3 win away from home, with 6 tries to nil? Gotta be happy with that surely?! I know we’re worlds apart (you Ulster and me Dragons) but I’d be over the moon with a win away like that!
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Post by neilthom7 Mon 04 Oct 2021, 8:10 pm

We are yeah, I don't know if you watched the game Oracle but I feel like it was one of those games that the score didn't really tell the story.

Zebre were truly awful and I think just about any team could have put a hiding on them playing like that.

What we are disappointed about I think the way Ulster played in general, they didn't seem very professional, throwing a lot of stuff around with no real plan. The reason why we are down on it is because the way they played would against any other team in the league have probably been a loss.

However I'll say this, there was 10 changes and Ulster have a habit of doing this away in Zebre, it's almost like Zebre drag them down to their level or make them think they can just throw it around without a plan and win and to be fair against Zebre you can.

Some of those players will have to play in a much tougher game this weekend because of injuries and they will have to get out of that mindset if they are to move on and win.

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Post by neilthom7 Mon 04 Oct 2021, 8:14 pm

Btw that performance from your Dragons v Leinster was excellent, probably about as close as anyone has been to beating Leinster in the league recently

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Post by neilthom7 Mon 04 Oct 2021, 8:22 pm

Don Alfonso wrote:Think we'll get bate this weekend. Benetton are no mugs and we're missing seven starters.

It will be a tough game but I still think we will get the win at home, I think the team can and will play a lot better than against Zebre too

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Post by The Oracle Mon 04 Oct 2021, 8:28 pm

neilthom7 wrote:Btw that performance from your Dragons v Leinster was excellent, probably about as close as anyone has been to beating Leinster in the league recently

Thanks neilthom7, not sure whether it was Leinster playing poorly or us getting up on them quickly and forcing errors. A bit of both I think. Just hoping we can kick on from that. We didn’t create much but we really defended tirelessly.

All the best for the season. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Ulster as my mum is a Belfast girl Smile I’ve even got an Ulster jersey knocking about somewhere which I wear now and again!
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Post by neilthom7 Mon 04 Oct 2021, 9:00 pm

If you defend like that the offence will come together over time and plenty of wins can follow.

Same to you guys, best of luck for the rest of season, well all of it except one game Cool

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Post by scrummy Thu 07 Oct 2021, 12:37 pm

Ulster team to play Benetton Rugby, United Rugby Championship Round 3, Friday 8 October at Kingspan Stadium, 7.35pm kick-off:

(15-9) Will Addison, Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Matty Rea, Nick Timoney, David McCann.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Ross Kane, Mick Kearney, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Mike Lowry, Ben Moxham.

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Post by Pete330v2 Thu 07 Oct 2021, 2:24 pm

Players not considered due to injury or unavailability:
Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Eric O’Sullivan, Iain Henderson, Kieran Treadwell, Cormac Izuchukwu, Dave O’Connor, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall, Rob Baloucoune, Jacob Stockdale, Rob Lyttle.

We're missing some big names, game changers and stalwarts both through injury and unavailability. What is unavailability as opposed to injury? Can we not add Vermeulen to that list as being unavailable just to add more weight to the point? Smile

It's not going to be easy tomorrow, the Italians are not the speed bumps of the past but fingers crossed for a win, be it a minger or a stunner.

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Post by neilthom7 Thu 07 Oct 2021, 5:37 pm

Tough game for sure, but hopefully at home they can pick up the win and with a bit of luck the bonus point as well

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Post by scrummy Fri 08 Oct 2021, 1:04 pm

I'm not over-enamoured with that starting 15 but I guess with what we have available it is what it is. I hope the backline, especially Hume and Stewart play some serious rugby. Serious doesn't mean boring; it's much more tedious to watch someone throwing the ball away while running sideways or backwards. Not feeling over confident but the home advantage might be enough to sway it in our favour.

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Post by clivemcl Fri 08 Oct 2021, 8:27 pm

As I watch Nathan Doak, it suddenly occurred to me, if Cooney was considering moving on, the emergence of a very talented young scrum half would likely encourage him to move on if anything.

I can see the mindset ‘Ireland don’t want me, and soon enough I could become second fiddle at Ulster’ creeping in. As in a feel it would be natural to have thoughts like that.

Not saying that I think that’s the case.

Wouldn’t be surprised to see Cooney cash in and take a contract elsewhere.

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Post by neilthom7 Fri 08 Oct 2021, 8:39 pm

I hope he doesn't, Doak playing fantastic right now though which is great to have that coming through after a bit of a drought of local scrum halves

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Post by Don Alfonso Sat 09 Oct 2021, 9:32 am

Hope Cooney sticks with us. Wouldn't begrudge him a payday, but if Vermeulen turns up and plays like we know he can, I wonder if Ulster looking more like earning silverware might encourage him to stay for another season or two.

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Post by scrummy Sun 10 Oct 2021, 6:37 am

Another 5 points; very positive result. There were moments in the second half when we started to string a few phases together and play some good rugby. Doak really looked the part and it's definitely a luxury to have Cooney and him: l hope we continue to do so. I suspect Callum Reid played more minutes than he expected to but hung in there really well. We missed the "Give the ball to Stu" option in the centre but neither did our centres allow Benetton too much joy. Addison always looks dangerous with ball in hand and continue to like McIlroy so when Baloucoune's back I don't know where Stockdale fits in. Maybe the bench? Again great that not-perfect performances can produce 5 points and another home game coming up to try to keep the momentum going. Hope nobody gets injured in training this week!

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Post by neilthom7 Thu 14 Oct 2021, 8:37 pm

Same starting 15 for the Lions game as last week, tough enough up front for us but should win and hopefully get the bonus point.

(15-9) Will Addison, Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Matty Rea, Nick Timoney, David McCann.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Mike Lowry, Ben Moxham.

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Post by neilthom7 Mon 18 Oct 2021, 9:08 pm

Addison has fractured his lower leg from the incident at the weekend, if that guy didn't have bad luck he would have no luck

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Post by clivemcl Fri 29 Oct 2021, 6:55 pm

So Bradley Roberts got called up to Wales squad. I didn’t even know he was eligible for them!

Was he a project player? Does he now become NIQ?

Well deserved, he’s been great!

Did IRFU miss the boat here though?

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Post by neilthom7 Fri 29 Oct 2021, 8:17 pm

He will now become NIQ which is kind of a disaster for Ulster really.

He originally moved to Rainey Old Boys and was discovered there by Ulster, he had moved there in 2017 so was a project player at that time and either had already qualified for ireland through that or was close to doing so.

Great news for him and he has done okay so far but bad news for Ulster and may very well signal the end of his time here since it would be dubious if they would want to keep a NIQ back up

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Post by geoff999rugby Fri 29 Oct 2021, 10:26 pm

That’s Roberts out the door, no way Ulster will keep him after next summer.

He is a decent squad player, no chance of a NIQ spot.
Happy enough with Andrews as back up, who hasn’t let us down

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Post by geoff999rugby Fri 29 Oct 2021, 10:34 pm

On the Connaught game.

That was not a one off we have problems.

To be frank we look really weak at 10 and the back row

Math Rea simply isn’t good enough, Burns is nothing special and dare I say
McCann is not the prospect some make him out to be.

A classy youngster shine when he hits the first XV
Doak has, Izzy did and Reid looks the business.
Mc Cann has not made the same impact.
I have more belief in Sheridan.

Overall all 5 performances so far give me a cause for concern.
We have beaten the worst team in the league, the worst Saffer side, Benetton reserves, scrapped home against Glasgow and were stuffed by Connaught.

Next 8 games are:
Leinster, Northampton and Clermont twice each.
Ospreys and Connacht once.
If we win 3 we will be doing well

The reality we have some players I have very little faith in seeing much again - McGarth, Addison, Marshall and Cooney (why would he stay)

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Post by geoff999rugby Fri 29 Oct 2021, 10:43 pm

David Tweed has just died.

I will not be respecting a minutes silence if called for at the next home game.

A piece of low life, convicted of child abuse( subsequently squashed).
Convicted of indecent assault and gross indecency

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Post by neilthom7 Sat 30 Oct 2021, 8:26 am

Completely agree on the Connacht game.

Back row looks weak this season so far, only Timoney has done well.

Need Jordi Murphy back ASAP and Vermuelen in as well.

Ready is a useful back up to those 3 as well but rea and McCann just don’t look up to it although there may be time for that to change on McCann.

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Post by LeinsterFan4life Sat 30 Oct 2021, 1:11 pm

Surprised and disappointed to hear that about McCann. Always thought he looked good whenever I seen him and looked a great prospect.

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Post by neilthom7 Sat 30 Oct 2021, 8:30 pm

There still time for McCann, perhaps Vermuelen will help him along a bit

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Post by geoff999rugby Sun 31 Oct 2021, 7:42 am

Don’t get me wrong I can see becoming a very decent provincial player, I just don’t see him as regular Irish international.

The level of Chris Henry is probably his ceiling, that would make him a very fine player indeed.

Just comparing him with Doak and Izzy I see them as nailed on Irish regulars

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Post by Unclear Sun 31 Oct 2021, 2:37 pm

This place seems very quiet these days so I suppose I should start posting to try to encourage more discussion.  Unfortunately my contributions are likely to be short on insight but hopefully I will learn something, particularly about refereeing decisions around the breakdown ....

As an Ulster fan, but living on the sub-tropical Kent coast I don't get to see many games in person, but at least I can view all the games on Premier Sports should I choose to put myself through the joy/anger/bewilderment (delete as appropriate).

I agree with a lot of the sentiments above, and would say we are a "soft" team.  If we can get on the front foot we do well and play some exciting and entertaining rugby.  But if we start to struggle to get go forward, we don't seem to know what to do next and dare I say lack leadership on the pitch.  That's not just down to the captain, but all the experienced players as well.
We have some great players, some good players, and some average players, (just like everyone else) but we don't seem to be able to pull everyone together when it matters to become greater as a collective than just a group of individuals.  This seems to me to be psychological rather than anything else.

Dan McFarland has done a great job in pulling us out of the mire of yesteryear but now he needs to work on the mental toughness of the squad. Hopefully bringing in Vermuelen, a proven winner, will help mentally as well as physically.  But this will only be a short term fix, we need to develop the right mental attitude across the club and not rely on big name imports, however good they may be.  
In my view Connacht beat us because they wanted it more.  Neither team looked particularly accomplished but the guys in green seemed determined to win however and whatever it took.  Munster had the grit to overcome this, we didn't.  
I assume we have sports psychologists etc to work on this sort of thing, so hopefully the current break will give some time to work on these things, or I'm completely wrong, because we more big games ahead.

I'll try to be a bit more positive next time.

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Post by neilthom7 Sun 31 Oct 2021, 2:58 pm

I actually think the Connacht game can be a positive for Ulster, because it showed them where they really are at. The first few games may have fooled them somewhat but this laid it out to be seen.

McFarland certainly seems like the kind of person who will obsess on getting it better for the next game and he has a month to work with most of those players to do so.

They do need an extra physicality that they seem to be lacking for those kind of matches or perhaps a game plan on how to get around it.

Connacht showed teams how you get to Ulster so teams will keep going back to that until Ulster can prove they can beat it and so Ulster will require a plan of how to play that kind of team.

The Leinster result won't necessarily say too much, Leinster are likely going to beat a lot of teams this year but the performance itself will be one to be closely watched.

Sadly most of our irish internationals wont get much gametime in the next month and so we shall see how that time off affects them and the rest of the team when the league returns as we go straight into a bunch of tough games


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Post by Unclear Sun 31 Oct 2021, 6:01 pm

You're right, we seem to be missing both physicality and a plan to combat it.  Burns has a decent short kicking game, I would have thought a chip over the rapidly advancing defensive line to try to turn them or give them pause for thought could be used occasionally.

I fear it will be a lengthy process to address mental issues, if that is what it is.  Getting Jordi Murphy back will help shore up the back row, but we need the rest of the pack to step up to avoid getting beaten up again and again.

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Post by geoff999rugby Sun 31 Oct 2021, 7:56 pm

Our biggest problem is very simple, we do not produced enough home grown players.

The Academy is much improved but the reality is picking up player Leinster don’t won’t, or missed, is a necessity as our home grown Academy.

Look at the home produced players:
International class - Baloucoune, Doak, Henderson, Stockdale
International/Provincial cross over - Gilroy, Marshall, McCloskey
Possible International class - Hume, Moore, Stewart, Reid, McCann
Provincial class - Lowry, Lyttle, Mcilroy, Andrew
Squad player - Rea, Sexton, Warwick, Kane, Rea,

Players from Leinster Ulster should take the credit for developing:
International class - Izuchukwu, O’ Toole,
International/Provincial crossover - Timoney,
Provincial class - O’Sullivan, O’Connor,
Squad player -  O’ Connor, Shanahan, Jones

Obviously very subjective but basically suggest in the entire squad we only have 4 players who are definitely International class, 3 who can player at that level, 5 viable International class players and 4 Provincial player.
The Academy has improved a lot but those figures are totally inadequate.
In addition our whole squad in underlined by Leinstermen.

Until we develop a much higher number of Provincial, or higher, quality player we will struggle.

We will not improve our numbers until the vice like grip that poor quality coaches at our schools have on the development of young players.
Schools not even allowing school kids access to superior coaching has to stop
I fear it won’t anytime soon

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Post by clivemcl Mon 01 Nov 2021, 11:01 am

I find the schools vs clubs topic interesting, and would like to hear more on the debate.
I only recently found that at my local club (Ballymoney), the mini rugby continued after P7 (think it's called Maxis) and there's some sort of agreement with the local school (Dalriada) that kids can play for both. I think the club games are much less - like a handful in the season.

I coach my lads age group (P5) and I thoroughly enjoy it. But I do wonder how many kids stop rugby at age 10/11 purely because of which school they go to. And ultimately, the schools may not be as good at coaching as their club was even at Minis level.

I mean... teachers are paid. but club coaches are volunteers. So immediately there will be a disparity in terms of passion for it.

I think I made the suggestion before.... I'd love to see the club system get September - Christmas, and the school system get January - April or something.

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Post by neilthom7 Mon 01 Nov 2021, 12:47 pm

It's a fair point Clive, I remember my own school days when we had a promising squad and won some high schools trophies and then at 16 it was all done, nothing beyond that and sadly Cookstown had no youth rugby club set up.

Goodness knows how many rugby players were lost after they turned 16 in many high schools as they had no set up.

Its something which needs to be addressed as Ulster doesn't have enough rugby playing population to be solely reliant on a few schools many of which don't exist west of the bann, thats a lot of untapped potential and its clear there is athletic potential there otherwise Tyrone wouldn't be winning all Irelands, with the likes of Donegal regular features in the later stages

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Post by geoff999rugby Mon 01 Nov 2021, 12:51 pm

Clive your suggestion is eminently sensible.

Needless to say, no prospect of being implemented furious

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Post by Unclear Tue 02 Nov 2021, 8:22 pm

I'm ignorant (on so many levels) of the way things are administered, who actually runs the Schools Cup? The split season seems very sensible, but change is never easy to get through. Do the other provinces have the same problem? There doesn't seem to be same school/club issues in England (or perhaps as no. 2 son had the same complete lack of aptitude in playing the game I had it never came up).

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Post by geoff999rugby Tue 02 Nov 2021, 9:47 pm

The Ulster schools rugby cup is the second oldest rugby tournament in history.

Sadly that means powerful forces consider it a God that must not be changed regardless of the impact.

Other Provinces are not saddles with this out of date burden.

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Post by Unclear Tue 02 Nov 2021, 9:53 pm

When so much else has changed or is changing is it that difficult to look at how grass roots rugby is organised? One can but live in hope.

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Post by Kingshu Thu 04 Nov 2021, 1:43 pm

Ulster have one player on bench for Ireland, the same number they have for Wales. Bit of a joke really. Actually aside from Aki the whole 15 either played or play, for Leinster! No players from Munster, Ulster or Connachts academies.

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Post by Unclear Thu 04 Nov 2021, 2:59 pm

But in all honesty how many should be in the 23?  The Connacht game must have done serious damage to Timoney and Hume's chances.  I agree Balacoune should be at least in the 23 if not starting, and Doak should be in the overall squad for experience, but O'Toole doesn't look ready for the step up, and O'Sullivan appears to have regressed.  Is he (O'Sullivan) carrying an injury because seems the player he was last year.

With Herring Farrell must know what he is getting (more reliable line outs) so I can see why he wouldn't be in the 23.

Just my view, especially as I think the current 2nd place is due to the fixture list rather than ability.

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Post by clivemcl Tue 09 Nov 2021, 11:43 am

It is a clear indication of where Ulster truly are at. Yes, Leinster are obviously the best province by some way, but at a time when Ulster are attempting to survive without as many Southern Hemisphere big names as they had in the past... we don't even have many Irish Qualified international standard players.

That said, I would argue Cooney is, but somehow is overlooked.

The overarching story though is... you cannot claim Ulster are at the top, if Ulster don't have players who are breaking through as internationals.

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Post by clivemcl Tue 09 Nov 2021, 11:45 am

Actually... to follow up... I'd love to see a comparison of the top teams in Europe/the League over past few years with their total international caps provided for comparison.

Arguable, you might find that Ulster have overperformed comparatively speaking based on how much international caps their squad has.

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Post by PhilBB Tue 09 Nov 2021, 11:57 am

clivemcl wrote:Actually... to follow up... I'd love to see a comparison of the top teams in Europe/the League over past few years with their total international caps provided for comparison.

Arguable, you might find that Ulster have overperformed comparatively speaking based on how much international caps their squad has.

What about a comparison by salary spend? One flaky cup this century suggests a huge underperformance, to me.
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Post by geoff999rugby Tue 09 Nov 2021, 8:47 pm

Well Ulster have won two senior competitions in the 21st Century.
Won the league as well as a Cup.

It is undoubtably true we should have won something in the Muller, Pienaar era.
Thwarted, mainly by Leinster, and in Europe, by Saracens as well.

Having said that except for a very brief period ( 2 years I would calculate) our salary bill has only ever matched the majority of teams in the Premiership, and it doesn’t even do that now.

It is undoubtably true we suffered from appalling management under Shane Logan and, quite frankly disgraceful treatment by the IRFU concerning Pienaer, Jackson and Olding. Especially when you compare them with players in similar circumstances at Leinster and Munster.

Don’t get me wrong I do condone in anyway the conduct of Jackson and Olding, they should hang their heads in shame.
Let’s be clear though they were banished not because of what they did but because of the publicity.
In the south a similar incident would be, and has been in the past, hushed up and said players continued to play in Ireland.

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Post by PhilBB Wed 10 Nov 2021, 9:42 am

geoff999rugby wrote:
Having said that except for a very brief period ( 2 years I would calculate) our salary bill has only ever matched the majority of teams in the Premiership, and it doesn’t even do that now.

What do you think it is now?
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