Stuart McCloskey keen for Ulster to complete rare double over Leinster

Northern province looking to clinch URC quarter-final spot

Ulster Stuart McCloskey celebrates scoring a try against Racing 92 during Saturday’s Investec European Rugby Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium. Picture by Brian Little

Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey wants to make more happy memories against provincial rivals Leinster at Kingspan Stadium tonight as Ulster look to clinch only a second league double over the Dubliners in 11 years.

There are also vital league points at stake as Ulster try to secure a spot in the URC play-offs while Leinster, who include returning Irish international duo Hugo Keenan and James Ryan in their ranks, want to guarantee a top two finish.

Ulster won the first meeting on the season 22-21 at the RDS on New Year’s Day.

“Not too many teams have the double over them over the last few years, so we’ll definitely take learnings from that game earlier in the season, what went well for us that day, what didn’t go well so we’ll try to do that exact thing again and squeeze out a narrow victory hopefully,” said McCloskey.

“I played them here the year they finished fifth (2015) and we gave them a good hammering and I remember smashing Cian Healy when he was a bit younger and flying a bit more and I was worried about him bouncing me all the time so yeah that was good.”

“We beat them well at the end of the season in the sun.”

“It would be great to get a performance but more importantly get a win and make sure we get in that top eight.

“If we win, we’ll probably end up in sixth and see who we play from there, I think the top four has probably got away from us now so it’s just getting that one win here in front of our home crowd.”

The win at the RDS at the start of January didn’t spark Ulster’s season as hoped and three straight defeats followed, two in Europe and one in the league which saw head coach Dan McFarland leave his job and John Cooney commenting he didn’t enjoy beating Leinster.

“I enjoyed it, what John is saying is probably right in general there was a bit of a down mood about the province in general, even when we were losing, we were losing by quite a lot was the issue it wasn’t tight games and hopefully it’s a consistency thing going forward.”

“What we had, and it was just too up and down and there were probably a lot of things going on behind the scenes that maybe John wasn’t happy about or people weren’t happy about.”

“It seems a lot better of an atmosphere now and I know that it helps that we have won three in a row and four of the last five so it’s a bit easier coming in on Monday.”

Richie Murphy’s arrival as head coach and three consecutive wins have lifted the mood around Kingspan Stadium.

“I think we really needed it as we were at the bottom of the well there coming off that loss in Clermont and we knew we would need 14 or 15 points from the next three games to give ourselves a chance of getting into the play-offs.”

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good spot now we’ll see if we can deliver at home which thankfully over the years, we’ve done pretty well a lot of the time so touch wood we’ll do it again.”

“Realistically we’re just trying to get to the play-offs at the minute, secure top eight and see how we go from there.”

“On our day we can beat anybody, being realistic I don’t think we’ll be anywhere near favourites or what we have been in years before, or one of the favourites, but I wouldn’t want to play us on a good day and the pressure will be on the other teams if we do manage to get there.”