Ethan McIlroy backs Ulster to hold onto play-off place

Province look to bounce back from defeat to Sharks against Stormers on Saturday

Ethan McIlroy will not be available for this Friday's clash with Emirates Lions at Ravenhill. Picture by Brian Little
Ethan McIlroyPicture by Brian Little
BKT United Rugby Championship: Stormers v Ulster (Saturday, 5.15pm, ViaPlay Sports 1)

Utility back Ethan McIlroy feels Ulster can emulate Munster and win the United Rugby Championship without having home advantage in the knockout stages.

Munster finished fifth at the end of the regular season beat Glasgow at Scotstoun in the quarter final, eliminated Leinster in the last four at the Aviva Stadium and went to Cape Town in the final and defeated the Stormers.

Ulster are clinging to a play-off place after last Saturday’s defeat against the Sharks in Durban and now face a crunch game against the Stormers on Saturday evening.

“The main focus is play-off rugby, and we know if we get there anything can happen, whoever is better on the day can win and we know we can compete against the Leinster’s having beaten them recently at the RDS,” stated McIlroy.

“We can compete with all the top teams in the league so it’s just about getting to play-off rugby, and we’ll go from there.”

McIlroy is hoping Ulster can bounce back against the Stormers.

“There is a bit of disappointment in the group, no one in professional sport wants to be losing games, you just have to park that, it’s part of the game that you lose matches sometimes.”

“You have to refocus onto the next task, and you can’t be carrying any of that disappointment in, you review and improve but as far as the mood, you just bring a positive mood into the next week and build on that from there for the game that’s coming.”

“The Stormers will be quite similar in the way they play, they are big, physical and they like to exploit those small attacking kicks like the Sharks did with us a bit.

“They’ve got explosive fast backs, big forwards and they defend quite similarly as they defend with line speed just like the South African national team so we’ll see similar pictures so we need to tidy up some of out things, a bit more accuracy and more on the same page this week.”

“We’re going to clear things up in meetings and go over those things on the pitch and know exactly what we’re doing and how to do it.”

Richie Murphy has been named interim head coach for Ulster Rugby until the end of the season following the departure of Dan McFarland after six years in charge.
Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.
Ulster interim head coach Richie Murphy

As a back three player, comfortable either at full-back or on the wing, McIlroy is looking forward to working with new interim coach Richie Murphy who has worked with Ireland as a skills and kicking coach.

“I have spoken to him about it and we’ll definitely get time in there but I think he’s a lot on his hands at the minute so I have to take a bit of personal responsibility into doing my kicking with the relevant coaches and other players in the team.

“But, yeah,100 per cent Richie will give me some of his advice and it’ll be great to hear from him in that specific aspect.”

“I’ve really liked what I’ve seen so far, the detail he brings to the rugby and he’s a new coach for me and it’s good to ask him questions and see how he sees the game.

“I’ve enjoyed having him in here and seeing how he works.”

McIlroy has started Ulster’s last three matches after suffering a horrific injury against Munster in November.

“There was no rush to get back in and I had a bit of a fracture in my eye so no rush to get me back in concussion-wise with the normal routine to get back in.

“I had plenty of time to get back on my feet and on into shape and get my running in and physical aspect stuff in.

“There were no real symptoms after that or problems with me that any of this was real bad but hopefully try and avoid those in the future anyway.”