Rugby Union

Plenty of room for improvement says Ulster forwards coach Grant

Ulster (left) forwards coach Roddy Grant believes there is more to come from the pack despite two wins out of two in their opening fixtures of the United Rugby Championship

DESPITE having made what looks like the perfect start to the season on paper, Ulster forwards coach Roddy Grant says that there’s still “plenty to improve on” as they prepare for the visit of Benetton at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.

The Treviso-based outfit saw off Edinburgh at the weekend to give them their second win of the season from two outings.

Benetton have brought the momentum gained from winning the Rainbow Cup last June into the current season and will no doubt hold no fears about visiting the Kingspan on Friday evening.

“Treviso, they’ll be a tough challenge. They are on a hell of a win streak. They’ve won silverware, so we’re expecting a really tough game,” said Grant.

After seeing off Zebre last Saturday evening in Parma, Grant does see similarities in the two Italian franchises as he readies the forward unit for what he expects to be another physical and uncompromising encounter.

“They’re both very physical, so both in terms of attack and defence, ball carries, tackle really hard, they both jackal at the breakdown, there’s a big contest there so that’s definitely similarities,” continued Grant.

Since joining the province two years ago, the reputation of Ulster’s forwards has continued to rise with the Ulster attacking maul becoming one of their most effective weapons.

Last season alone, Ulster scored 11 tries from mauls and while admitting that the video reviews are always easier after a victory, Grant was quick to point out that there’s plenty of work to be done despite those two bonus point wins over Glasgow and Zebre respectively.

“I guess that’s the pleasing thing. Two bonus point wins. We’re in a results-based profession. And so that’s all important. They’ve certainly not been the most polished performances, both Glasgow and Zebre, so, plenty, plenty to work on.

"And as I said, the forwards review, we had a robust honest review which was great and those are obviously always easier after a win. We had to a lot to work on after Glasgow, we had a lot to work on after Zebre. We’re certainly hoping and the aim is to take a large step forward this week against a big challenge,” said the former Edinburgh player.

An important part of the Ulster pack is Rob Herring. The Irish international is in line to make his 200th Ulster appearance this weekend and Grant was full of praise for his fellow South African.

“Anyone to get 200 games, professional games, it’s a huge achievement. And then obviously 200 games at Ulster, a club like Ulster as well, is awesome. That just speaks volumes for him as a player. He’s obviously an Irish international as well. He’s a great guy, good leader, works really hard, pleasure to coach, very coachable," Grant said.

"Like all hookers, they play a key part in the forwards, set-piece, scrum, maul. You know, he’s obviously dynamic around the pitch as well, that’s not just a set-piece hooker. It’s a really good reflection on him as a player, as a pro, as a person. To get 200 games is an awesome achievement."

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