Leinster v Ulster gets green light as Marty Moore targets big improvement

Former Leinster tighthead still looking to add to his 10 Ireland caps

Leinster’s Pro14 game against Ulster at the Aviva stadium on Saturday night (7.35) will go ahead after the IRFU confirmed that the PCR testing of players and staff at both provinces produced zero positive results from the 155 people that underwent the process.

Results from Munster and Connacht will be available on Friday ahead of their game at the same venue on Sunday afternoon (3.0).

The Ulster senior squad recommenced training on Thursday after it had been suspended earlier in the week as a precautionary measure following confirmation that there had been eight positive Covid-19 cases in the Ulster academy.

An IRFU statement read: “All individuals identified as potential close contacts of this group of academy players immediately began self-isolating and have since been tested. This includes one member of the senior squad who has received a negative test result but will continue to self-isolate in line with public health advice.


“All Academy training continues to be suspended and Ulster Rugby continues to work closely alongside the Public Health Agency (PHA). To date there have been 1070 tests conducted across the professional player and staff group (with) nine positive tests reported from the academy system.”

The IRFU’s medical director Rod McLoughlin said: “We have now had two occurrences of Covid and while the primary focus and concern will always be player health it is good to see that the systems and protocols that have been put in place are working. We will now use these experiences to refine our systems and protocols as we continue to operate in this new environment.”

Now that the game is going ahead, one player who is looking forward to returning to the Aviva stadium is Ulster tighthead Marty Moore, once of Leinster, via Wasps.

The disappointment in performance terms of last weekend’s defeat to Connacht should act as a galvanising factor to ensure that the Ulster team offer a better representation of their talent this weekend.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was unequivocal in his criticism of what he adjudged to be a substandard display. The incentives are obvious,not least the fact that Ulster could potentially meet Saturday’s opponents again in both the Pro 14 and Champions Cup.

Moore explained: “It’s an old school interpro because both teams have those playoff spots in both competitions booked. It just comes down to pride for your club and feeds into everything going forward. We know we can meet them down the road and we know what a danger and threat they are.

“But we also know we can go out there and beat them when we turn up and we play in a manner that we know we can do. There is certainly no fear in the ranks at the club. I suppose it’s [about] anticipation and people looking forward to the challenge.”

The nature of the performance against Connacht, individually and collectively, wasn’t good enough and certainly couldn’t be fully ascribed to rustiness, even though the nearly six month playing hiatus would have been a factor. It can’t be on Saturday.

Moore said: “It’s trying to find that bit of rhythm again and raise our physical performance to the intensity and level that we expect of ourselves and others expect of us as well. In an usual season, we’d usually have one homegrown and one Premiership opposition before you get into the league.

“Even then it’s not necessarily [a case of] hit the ground running first game up in the league, so I think it’s been on everyone’s minds that we need to fast track that this year across all the provinces.

“All the players know there’s no time really for easing our way into it, so that was probably why it was so disappointing because we had that earmarked as a potential hurdle and we didn’t quite live up to what we had preached leading up to the game.

“I think it takes a game or two before you’re back to normal. To be at your best definitely it’s not going to happen in the first game.”

Moore, who made 58 appearances for Leinster in four years – he won 10 Ireland caps during that period – then joined Wasps in 2016 before accepting an offer from Ulster two years later. His time in the English Premiership allowed him to develop as a player in terms of the set piece and maul, primarily because of the emphasis in those facets of the game.

He noticed the quicker pace of the game when he returned to Ireland. “It’s [the English Premiership] an attritional league at times and it can be very dependent on that some weeks. Coming back to Ulster again it is more of an open game.

Irrespective of personnel he’s looking forward to the scrum tussle. There won’t be too many surprises in that regard. “The biggest thing for us is staying in front of them and not giving that pack angles or opportunities to try and exploit,” Moore said.

“It’s about not giving opportunities for, say on my side of the scrum, Cian [Healy] or someone to cut an angle, because they’re very good at it and can be destructive. That’s an area where we’re quite strong on ourselves and it’s something we’d like to take the challenge to them.”

He’d like to add to his tally of Irish caps and is aware that matches of this ilk are an ideal proving ground but it is not foremost in his considerations. “I don’t give a whole lot of thought to the international stuff really because it’s not something I can focus on.

“It’s more of a long-term thing. I have to fight for the chance to play for my club and then do it well before I consider it as a possibility.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer