Ulster needs to keep up intensity to overcome Edinburgh: Coach Dan McFarland
HEAD coach Dan McFarland insists Ulster must rediscover the intensity they showed in their European Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster if they are to have a chance of winning tonight's pivotal PRO14 encounter with Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
That quality was lacking in last week's 30-7 loss to Glasgow at Scotstoun and McFarland laid some of the blame on his own shoulders.
A bonus-point win tonight would secure Ulster a play-off place, and would guarantee them a home quarter-final along with a Champions Cup spot, if Treviso were to lose at home to Munster, so the stakes could hardly be higher.
Lose tonight and everything would rest on Ulster's final game of the regulation season at home to Leinster on April 27.
"When we reviewed, we didn't make excuses, we reviewed very hard on that (Glasgow) performance but it would be silly not to think that there was a context related to the physical and emotional investment the week before," said McFarland.
"The game in Dublin was 47 minutes of ball in play time, 460 tackles in that game so the physical impact was huge and obviously the mental impact was huge.
"We planned for that and we didn't arrive then on the Monday and say 'oh dear, what are we going to do now'.
"We planned for that situation, whether we got it totally right, or I got it totally right in terms of preparation for the following week, I don't know but if I were doing it again, I would do it differently."
"The emotional peak for us was probably more intense than it was for Leinster. Leinster are always playing play-off games so they are used to that kind of game.
"In terms of managing that, one thing for the Glasgow game was that we wanted to have the players physically fresh, which we did and that worked really well.
"In terms of the mental hangover, we managed the week pretty well in terms of the timings, however I suspect we never totally dusted off that.
"We certainly did not rise to the intensity that we needed to the Glasgow game."
McFarland expects Ulster to improve this week, albeit from a low base point, as they prepare for the game with Edinburgh and they will have to after the Scots impressed in a 20-12 away win over Scarlets last week, following a narrow defeat to Munster in the Champions Cup.
"I certainly think we will be better this week, I have no doubt about that, I thought we started well last week," McFarland added.
"I think we will have an improved performance this week definitely, I am pretty certain of that.
"Whether that is good enough to win I don't know, Edinburgh are doing pretty well at the minute, they are a strong team, this game is as important for them as it is for us.
"They are playing at home and they know everything is on the line as far as a play-off is concerned and we have prepped for that."
British and Irish Lions second row Iain Henderson returns to the line-up after being rested for the game in Glasgow and will captain the team tonight, with Alan O'Connor dropping to the bench.
Darren Cave and Michael Lowry miss out due to injuries picked up last week so Jacob Stockdale will start at full-back with Robert Baloucoune restored to the wing and Nick Timoney recalled to the pack.