Connacht hopeful in their trip to face Ulster

Visitors have not been able to earn a win against Ulster at Ravenhill since 1960

Pat Lam probably doesn't know that Connacht's last win in Belfast was as far back as 1960. Roy Orbison had a number one with Only the Lonely and Lam was eight years from this world.

He may not care about history but he will care about Connacht's sixth place in the Pro12 table as they continue to find greater consistency and ramp up their ambition to qualify for Europe.

There was disappointment last week as they lost to Leinster but there's now belief in the players' heads. Ulster, although their home record is good, are expecting to be hit with everything Connacht have.

"Connacht have always been there or there abouts," says Ulster coach Neil Doak. "They have always been a proud club and have done well in big European games . . . They have brought in some big names and have been going pretty well and have gotten to a level where they have consistency."



Doak will know today if he can pick his first choice halfback pairing of

Ruan Pienaar


Paddy Jackson

. Jackson has been a long term injury, while the Springbok injured his knee last week against the Ospreys but not as badly as first expected.

“Both did running this morning and hit the bags,” said Doak. “We’ve a session tomorrow and it’s a case of seeing how they settle and react to the training . . .”

Ulster’s injury list has been a factor as players come in and adjust to the speed of games, especially the decision making process under pressure. There is a growing frustration that inconsistency has been pulling them back.

In that Lam and Doak see eye to eye. Against Leinster Connacht thought they deserved more and this week Lam's life is complicated because of concern over the fitness of Eoin McKeon and Michael Swift, who both shipped knocks.

“Ulster are an enormously proud team and, like us, are undefeated at home this season,” says Lam. “It will be a very hard place for us to go and play against a side stacked with quality players. But if we correct some of the issues we had against Leinster, and add in the belief that we have shown in games this season, it will give us the best opportunity for points.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times