Roddy Grant says Ulster need to improve in every area

The northern province are setting sights on a play-off spot in the BKT United Rugby Championship after their European exit

Roddy Grant
Ulster’s forwards coach Roddy Grant (SYSTEM)

FORWARDS coach Roddy Grant feels all aspects of Ulster’s game will need to improve if they are to make the United Rugby Championship play-offs.

After conceding seven tries and 53 points in Saturday’s European Challenge Cup defeat to Clermont, Ulster return to domestic action on Friday night as they host Cardiff at Kingspan Stadium.

Richie Murphy’s men are eighth in the table with five regular season games remaining and must stay in that top eight to reach the play-offs, but they have lost three of their last four URC games.

Grant had a simple answer when asked what needs to improve.

“A lot, probably most areas – forwards, backs, team, attack, and defence,” he said.

“We need to look after the ball a lot more, a lot of the things are linked, so if we get turned over or we have a lot of errors or give away a lot of penalties, other areas come under pressure.

“Working away a little bit on each area and that’s the focus, week to week, going at it with that.

“It’s an important part of the season now, as was last week being a quarter-final leading into the league.

“Everyone is aware we need those improvements, and they need to happen quick.”

While identifying the problems is easy enough, fixing them has been more difficult as Ulster have lost nine of their last 14 games in all competitions.

Grant knows there is no easy fix to the province’s current travails, and is at a loss as to why things have gone awry at crucial points in games.

“If we knew that it would be a lot easier, that’s what we spoke about at half-time (in Clermont), start well, don’t blink first,” he said.

“We know what gives teams momentum, territory, possession, line breaks, not looking after the ball.

“Everyone knows that gives momentum, it’s never a game of shadow rugby, there’s always someone wanting to do something different.

“Those are big moments, and we need to be doing better on those. Looking at results and the games we’ve lost, we’ve lost those big moments clearly, and that’s led on to a poor second half or a loss as a result”

“As long as pro sport is around that will always be a focus for teams”

“There are a million things that go into performance that need to improve.

“Confidence will come with that, understanding of tweaks and how we want to play and need to play.

“You always have those principles in place, and you need to adapt week to week depending on opposition, how you’re going, what players you have available.

“You want to be better in each game, it’s more important now with being at this end of the season to get those improvements each week.”

One of the reasons for Ulster’s slump in form has been their turnover rate, especially at the breakdown, and they conceded 13 against Clermont.

“You need the ball to play, and you can’t give teams ball, let alone French teams,” said Grant.

“Everything is really important, that’s the trend now, the breakdown has always been important, but the consequences are high for a team, especially this season.

“The penalty count, 10 penalties at the weekend, you give away double-figure penalties then you’re always going to be under pressure.

“As soon as teams go after an area, it’s like a red rag to a bull, teams will always target it, so that’s why you want to make sure you target it.”

With just five points separating fourth and 11th in the URC table, Grant feels it’s imperative Ulster get a win against Cardiff.

“Every game is a must-win. Looking at the table, it’s tight,” he said.

“Other team’s fixtures, you can never predict things but you’re always looking at other teams seeing if they win, that adds all sorts.

“Very important game, we all know that we’ve all seen the table so everyone’s aware of it.”

Round 14

Friday, April 19 (7.35pm) Ulster v Cardiff; Glasgow v Sharks

Saturday, April 20 Lions v Leinster (2pm); Benetton v Dragons (2pm); Bulls v Munster (4.05pm; Stormers v Ospreys (6.15pm); Connacht v Zebre (7.35pm); Edinburgh v Scarlets (7.35pm)