Ulster looking to finish off impressive pool performance when Clermont come calling

Forwards coach Roddy Grant expects another fierce physical test against French side

Though they have already made it through to the last 16, there is still much to strive for as Ulster bid to see off Clermont in Belfast on Saturday evening (5.30) and therefore secure the highest possible seeding for the next phase of the Champions Cup.

Even so, the structure of the competition could yet see them enter the home and away rounds going up against some very sizeable artillery. As things stand they would play champions Toulouse while bogey side Connacht are in the mix too, but there is nothing else for it but try and back-up last Sunday’s impressive bonus-point victory at Northampton Saints to make it four pool wins from four.

Though it is unclear if Ulster's sizeable injury list will have reduced by the weekend – Jacob Stockdale is out for the season after ankle surgery while there is no immediate information regarding Iain Henderson, John Cooney, Stuart McCloskey and Jordi Murphy – Dan McFarland's squad will, nevertheless, expect to still have enough to do the job against Clermont and especially after winning at Stade Marcel Michelin in round one.

Ulster's display at Franklin's Gardens caught the eye with particularly stand-out performances from , Michael Lowry, James Hume and Nathan Doak with all three potentially putting themselves in the frame for call-ups to the Ireland squad for the Six Nations.


While forwards coach Roddy Grant could only concur that the three young players all stood tall – two-times Ireland capped Baloucoune bristled with intent on his first game back from injury – he also wanted the pack's input to be acknowledged against what was a pretty decent Saints eight.

“We’re slowly getting there [as a pack] but it’s great that we can go to these teams with huge squads and budgets and go well. “[Now] We’ve another one this weekend with Clermont.

"Every week is a different challenge," Grant added before directly addressing the threat posed by the French side coached by Kiwi Jono Gibbes, who previously spent time at the Kingspan.

"Clermont turn over phenomenal amount of ball whether it's Fritz Lee or other big guys or jackal artists, so it's another big challenge to focus on."

While Ulster’s most recent URC outing was the hugely disappointing defeat to 14-man Munster, the northern province are determined not to let any hints of inconsistency colour their European form.

As Grant maintains, they may have played well last Sunday but this is no guarantee of the same when Clermont arrive this weekend.

“Complacency? That’s always [the case] after big games and that’s my experience with any team I’ve been involved in whether as a player or coach.

“Everyone is aware of that. How do you back it up?

“You look at training the week before and how we set the tone forwards wise.

“You analyse all that and try to replicate it the following week.

“What we can rely on as coaches, or in the group, is it’s a big game [with Clermont]. It’s a home game with actually a lot on the line against a French team we beat away so we know they’ll be coming really hard.”