Ulster are no strangers to circling the wagons and this weekend seems like one of those occasions as they prepare for a tough opening Champions Cup fixture at Sale Sharks in the wake of last Saturday’s meltdown at the RDS.
The northern province let slip their 22-3 lead against Leinster’s 14-men to concede 35 unanswered points in an encounter which will have shaken them hard regardless of maintaining the mantra that it’s fundamentally just a new week with a new challenge to face.
Their situation has hardly been helped by having John Cooney, Tom Stewart and Iain Henderson – the Leinster game was his first start since last season – all undergoing return to play protocols after shipping HIAs in Dublin ahead of facing a Sale side who are going well and are second in the Premiership.
Billy Burns also picked up an ankle knock during the Leinster game, though the outhalf appears confident of being fit for Sunday’s clash at the AJ Bell Stadium (1pm).
If ever there was a test of Ulster’s resolve it is now and this will also be against unfamiliar opposition in the competition.
“They are a resilient bunch,” said assistant coach Jonny Bell of the Ulster squad. “They are good pros. They have to recover [from Leinster], first and foremost, physically and mentally it’s about understanding what we did well [in the game].
“We scored four tries against a side that is renowned for their defence. But we just made some errors that allowed them field position and if you give them enough field position, they will hurt you.
“It’s about us moving on and turning our focus to this weekend.”
With just the four group games and champions La Rochelle coming to Belfast six days after taking on Sale, Ulster have really no margin for error if they are mount another robust challenge in the Champions Cup.
“That’s the nature of it,” said Bell, whose responsibility is defence. “It’s tough whenever you don’t win your first game, but we are excited about this challenge. We are up against a side who will bring out the best in us.
“They [Sale] are flying high. There is a real steeliness to them.
“They are physical. A big pack. Their fundamentals, their set-piece is strong, and you have to be prepared.
“It’s getting the detail right about how we want to play the game, defensively it is about not allowing them to dictate the ball because they are dangerous when they get momentum.”