Robbie Diack says Ulster must bounce back in their Champions Cup clash with Bordeaux after suffering their first PRO12 defeat of the season last week.
Ulster were unbeaten in five games going into their derby with defending champions Connacht but lost 30-25 in Galway to taste defeat for the first time this season.
Ulster head to France this week to face Bordeaux-Begles in Pool five, a team who’s won their last three games in the Top 14.
Ulster have won eight of their last 10 games against French opposition in Europe, including home and away doubles over Oyonnax and Toulouse in last season’s Pool stages. Add in away wins in Castres Olympique and Montpellier in recent years and the Belfast-based side have every reason to travel with some confidence.
“We’ve come a long way but it’s never easy over in France. We’re disappointed to finish off this block of games with a loss, but to take our form over the first six weeks in the PRO12 into Europe will be huge for us,” Diack said.
“The first game always sets the tone for the tournament and is very important for helping you to get out of the pool. It will be a big test for us.
“But going down to Connacht was the perfect preparation for Europe. It’s going to be tough again this week but I think we’re in a good place – we’re hurting but, at the same time, we’re doing pretty well and I think that combination will serve us well.”
Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss rested scrum-half Ruan Pienaar against Connacht and is hopeful of having Charles Piutau and Stuart Olding fit to play at Stade Chaban-Delmas on Sunday. Co-captain Andrew Trimble hopes to prove his fitness in training this week, but lock Franco van der Merwe is set to miss the first two rounds with an ankle problem.