Champions Cup: Ulster’s Dan McFarland eyes multi-faceted approach to stop Leinster

Dylan Coetzee
Head coach Dan McFarland has blasted the late venue change that saw Ulster host La Rochelle at the Aviva Stadium rather than Kingspan Stadium in the Champions Cup. 

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland is looking to adopt a multi-faceted approach to stopping Leinster this weekend in their last-16 Champions Cup tie.

McFarland’s side has already failed to beat Leinster twice this season in the United Rugby Championship but now meet in a knockout clash at the RDS Arena.

Leinster’s 15-match win streak was broken last weekend as a second-string side impressively drew to a Springbok-laden Stormers team in Dublin.

Leo Cullen would have been content with the result, and this weekend will likely see the return of their Grand Slam-winning heroes.

Disrupt speed of play

The Ulster coach will be initially looking to disrupt Leinster’s ball’s speed while trying to control the territorial game.

“Leinster’s heartbeat is their gain line and their lightning quick ball, if you let them have that, or if they’re able to impose that, then you’re going to struggle in the game,” said McFarland.

“That’s the bottom line; it’s not rocket science, we’ve managed to slow it down in past games but you have to do it consistently.

“They are going to score tries against you; they’ll score tries against anyone, you have to put yourself in a position where you can score tries as well.

“The territory game is really important; they’re smart, they’ve a really good kicking game, kick-chase game.

“They’re very much an error-free team at the back, the pressure that comes from the territory game and your ability to create your own gain line and slow down their ball…it starts and stops with that.”

Pressure in multiple ways

McFarland insists his side must put pressure on Leinster on all fronts because their players are very good at solving problems in the game.

“You can’t rely on trying to shut them down; it’s too single-faceted,” he said. “If you’re not able to put pressure on them in multiple ways, it doesn’t have to be in every way, but in a number of ways, they are going to find an answer.

“Without wanting to link Ireland and Leinster, when you look at the Ireland v England game, England found a way to put pressure on them in one way with crazy line speed but Ireland, the country, is so full of quality players that they’ll find an answer to that somehow during the game.

“It’s the same with Leinster, if we chose one way to stop them, it’s not going to do it.

“We have to find a way to create momentum for ourselves off the back of any good defence that we have by being good in attack.

“It gives them something else to think about.

“How easy is that? Well it happens their defence is the best in the league as well.

“You’ve got to be smart.

“We approach it in that’s on us to put in the best performance we possibly can, be as physical as we possibly can and make every moment of the game a contest against them. And if we’re able to do that consistently then the chips will fall as they’ll fall…we can only influence the game by the way we play.

“When we get it right, we’re a very good team and we’ll need to get it right.”

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