Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

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hugonaut
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Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by hugonaut »

Ulster are back to being the second-placed province in the country. Having qualified for a Pro14 final and a Heineken Cup quarter final, there is no argument that they have outstripped Munster. A lot of credit has to go to Dan McFarland and CEO John Petrie, who have directed operations astutely and improved the performances and perception of the organisation both on and off the field.

With that said, from my perspective, the job isn't half done. There is still a very significant gap in on-pitch performance between Leinster and Ulster, and only a hair's breadth between Ulster and Munster. If Ulster can't reach Leinster next year [which seems like a big ask at the time of writing], they still have to work at creating a gap between themselves and Munster.

I've been impressed with McFarland since his arrival, and he looks like the right man for the job. You can't say that with the same certainty about the Munster set-up, so that is a point to Ulster. He has improved players, he has got good performances out of them on big occasions, he has made tough selection calls and he has been pretty fearless in selecting younger players – not reckless, but not cowed by imagining what could go wrong.

Ulster have some notable players to come back into the mix next season [2020-21], but they also have some youngsters to introduce.

Will Addison would be a huge addition at fullback; he's one of the most skillful backs in Ireland. Robert Baloucoune is a difficult match-up on the wing with his pace, height and athleticism. Luke Marshall is obviously an experienced and clever centre, and could offer something at No12 as well as No13.
I see Matt Faddes as very much a like-for-like replacement for Louis Ludik, who turns 34 next month. Ludik has been a real servant over the last six years for Ulster, very competent and versatile. Realistically, 34 is the end of the road for an outside back. If Faddes can plug the same gaps that Ludik did, he'll have earned his wage.

Ulster's continued improvement will rely on their production of home grown forwards. They need a stronger group of home-grown forwards to build around for medium-to-long term stability and daily doggedness. Ulster Rugby has a strong identity – as strong as any of the provinces – but it has become frayed. Their pack has been really light on Ulstermen over the last decade; having so few native Ulstermen up front and at the fore of collisions erodes the strength of togetherness not just within the pack, but between the team and the support. That's quasi-mystical b*llocks of course, but I'm quite convinced by it. Rugby demands extreme physical bravery on occasion, and it is easier to go to your reserves for something you believe in and have grown up around than to do it just as a professional service.

They have made some strides in that regard, but I think it is key to their progress.

Tom O'Toole is flat-out impressive. He's strong, quick, fit and his progress this season has been really pushed by McFarland - he has played in 21 [10+11] games thus far this season as a 20/21 year old. Given that Ulster have only played 23 games, that is really impressive.

I can see McFarland bring David McCann, this year's Irish U20s captain, into the mix as a blindside next season. He was very impressive for the U20s this year, he handles the ball well, he's got really good height as a lineout option, he's a good leader and there's a gap there. Matty Rea is a worker, but doesn't have anything like as high a ceiling as McCann. Azur Allison is another good contender for a backrow spot in the senior squad.

Dixie Dalton has a streak of the mad-b*stardness that some stand-out Ulster forwards of the past have had, and he's a player who McFarland should look to keep involved, and get more involved. Tom Stewart was also impressive for the same U20s team as an U19 hooker; he might take another year until he's ready for the grind of pro rugby, but his potential far exceeds that of John Andrew, a career substitute.

There is a big Leinster contingent at the moment at Ulster, and McFarland needs to keep those who are important contributors, and replace those who are fringe players with home-grown options. Ulster needs to start producing more players who are capable of playing for Ireland, and the start of that is more Ulster players playing for Ulster and proving their mettle in professional rugby. I am looking forward to seeing how their next season goes.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by blockhead »

True Ulster home grown players are few but they are producing some real talent especially in the backs.
Stockdale, Hume, Lowry, Balacoune,Lyttle and the yet to be unleashed Aaron Sexton, are players of quality.
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by leinsterforever »

Dalton, the second rower? Thought he was no longer involved with Ulster.

Sam Carter's been a bit disappointing. They could do with having a really high quality NIQ alongside Henderson. Someone like a Joe Launchbury perhaps.

I daresay they should be in the market for Frawley as a 10 too.

But yeah, with a quality coaching set-up in place the biggest thing is to get very promising U20s like McCann and Stewart Moore filtering up into the senior team.

mildlyinterested
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by mildlyinterested »

Yeah Dalton is no longer with Ulster.

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hugonaut
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by hugonaut »

mildlyinterested wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 9:51 am
Yeah Dalton is no longer with Ulster.
Strange. I thought he had the size and abrasiveness to add to Ulster's pack. He played in the Pro14 as far back as November 2017 [just after his 19th birthday] and looked as though he had the potential to be a pro.

McFarland is a good coach who has shown he knows how to build a squad and progress players up the depth chart, so I'd generally trust his judgment.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by mildlyinterested »

hugonaut wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 11:03 am
mildlyinterested wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 9:51 am
Yeah Dalton is no longer with Ulster.
Strange. I thought he had the size and abrasiveness to add to Ulster's pack. He played in the Pro14 as far back as November 2017 [just after his 19th birthday] and looked as though he had the potential to be a pro.

McFarland is a good coach who has shown he knows how to build a squad and progress players up the depth chart, so I'd generally trust his judgment.
they sent him to play rugby in Oz during the summer of 2019.. came back and didn't do much from there.. they severely lack young options at lock so McFarland really must not have been a fan

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by Oldschool »

leinsterforever wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 6:42 pm
Dalton, the second rower? Thought he was no longer involved with Ulster.

Sam Carter's been a bit disappointing. They could do with having a really high quality NIQ alongside Henderson. Someone like a Joe Launchbury perhaps.

I daresay they should be in the market for Frawley as a 10 too.

But yeah, with a quality coaching set-up in place the biggest thing is to get very promising U20s like McCann and Stewart Moore filtering up into the senior team.
Is there an Irish qualified SR in the world that even approximates to a Joe Launchbury.
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by neiliog93 »

No disrespect to Alan O'Connor, but when he's starting ahead of one of your high profile NIQ signings, you have to start asking questions about the NIQ player.
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by ronk »

Ulster have quality but they need a little more impact. Coetzee and McCloskey have been good but when we took them away there wasn’t enough left to beat us.

They either need to get Moore and McGrath back to their peaks or they need to produce somewhere else.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by mildlyinterested »

McGrath is 31 very soon, he isn't ever getting back to his lions level best IMO. Still can be a very effective prop for Ulster over next 2-3 years.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by ronk »

The same was said about Healy a few years ago.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by mildlyinterested »

ronk wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 8:38 am
The same was said about Healy a few years ago.
right sure we will see what happens, i'm not going to hold my breath on Jack Mc making the lions :lol:

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by hugonaut »

mildlyinterested wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 8:01 am
McGrath is 31 very soon, he isn't ever getting back to his lions level best IMO. Still can be a very effective prop for Ulster over next 2-3 years.
I think he can still be an effective prop and may get back in contention for Ireland.

Kilcoyne definitely played the best rugby of his career in 2019; it was a rejuvenation for him. He changed his approach to training, took very few days off, cleaned up his diet to a very significant degree and got a lot fitter [link: https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/rugby/ ... -1.3706143 ]. He's an example that props can play the best rugby of their careers relatively late in their innings.

That long, lockdown enforced break was an opportunity for a lot of players. For older players, it was a sabbatical. They all should have been wise enough and strong-willed enough to get the most of it. They weren't taking any contact, which is a massive deal in terms of recovery and the ability to train.They had been provided with equipment and all the advice they could need from their staff, and they were getting paid.

I haven't heard that there is anything physically troubling Jack, so he is in quite a good position to try and re-establish himself for Ireland. He's got a good loosehead tag-team partner in Eric O'Sullivan, he's got a good coach in McFarland, Ulster are a team on the up and at his best he is a formidable player.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by LeRouxIsPHat »

Jack did have a hip injury that he struggled to get over, he even had a noticeable limp. Not sure what the status of that is but I thought he was looking really good again before lockdown so hopefully he’ll improve again with more games.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by ronk »

mildlyinterested wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 8:47 am
ronk wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 8:38 am
The same was said about Healy a few years ago.
right sure we will see what happens, i'm not going to hold my breath on Jack Mc making the lions :lol:
True. I could see Healy making the Lions though.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by mildlyinterested »

ronk wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 12:30 pm
mildlyinterested wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 8:47 am
ronk wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 8:38 am
The same was said about Healy a few years ago.
right sure we will see what happens, i'm not going to hold my breath on Jack Mc making the lions :lol:
True. I could see Healy making the Lions though.
hopefully but he faces an uphill battle for selection IMO.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by Oldschool »

Looking at the Toulouse it's very hard to see Ulster doing anything.
Stay in the game for an hour and see what happens then.
Question - how do Ulster stay in the game for an hour.
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by FLIP »

Oldschool wrote:
September 20th, 2020, 12:28 pm
Looking at the Toulouse it's very hard to see Ulster doing anything.
Stay in the game for an hour and see what happens then.
Question - how do Ulster stay in the game for an hour.
Even more so after Burns is off and no Madigan on the bench.
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by Oldschool »

Game over
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Re: Ulster Rugby - 2020-21 Season

Post by fourthirtythree »

Toulouse taking time to adjust their kit and straighten their hair before scoring tries. Winning is fine but you got to look good doing it.
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