URC: Ulster up for Connacht challenge

URC: Ulster up for Connacht challenge

Ulster halted a three-match losing run when they saw off Top 14 leader Racing92 in their Champions Cup game in Belfast.

Defence coach Jonny Bell believes the province must carry the confidence gained from beating Racing 92 into Friday's URC game against Connacht.

"We back ourselves. The boys are confident and we know what we've got to do to beat Connacht," said Bell at Ulster's weekly media conference.

"Connacht are a good side and we know they are going to cause us problems."

He added: "They went to Saracens at the weekend and scored five tries so they are dangerous.

"They're on the back of a little bit of a losing run so they'll be looking to bounce back themselves but we need to make sure we play well, take that confidence which we picked up from beating Racing and put it out on the pitch."

Ulster went down to Glasgow and Edinburgh in their most recent URC outings, with their other defeat of the campaign so far having come away to Connacht at the Sportsground in early November.

There is little to separate the sides in the table, with Ulster seventh on 20 points and their opponents at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday one point worse off in eighth after a poor recent run of results.

"You know when Connacht come to town that they are going to be physical," reflected Bell, a member of Ulster's 1999 European Cup winning side.

A defeat by Bath in their opening Champions Cup Pool 2 game made it three losses in a row for Ulster but their much-heralded increased attacking intent yielded dividends as they saw off Racing in style to kick-start their European campaign.

"We've tried to grow our attack massively and that doesn't just happen. That takes time," argued the Ulster defence coach.

"I suppose there has been a certain amount of frustration that we were creating lots of opportunities but sometimes it has been difficult to take those.

"We created a lot of space and opportunities against Bath but did not exploit those, we felt we didn't fulfil our expectation there.

"We saw on Saturday against Racing a lot more intent in what we were trying to do, got the ball into those wider channels and get some of our really good and fast wingers on to the ball.

"That was really pleasing from everyone's perspective. We're delighted the way the result went. We won that game well and that should give us confidence."

Bell was aware of some of the criticism being levelled at the squad in light of that recent disappointing run of results, but says the group continued to believe in themselves.

"Everyone has their opinions and we're in a results-driven business but from within margins are fine. Teams can score points very quickly in the game these days, you can see that in every game during the weekend, with a lot of high-scoring games.

"Expectation is high here, and probably rightly so. They want us to achieve things, as we all do.

"But you can't win every game and the boys are working incredibly hard, as they do every week. You can be doing the same thing and winning or be on the wrong side of results.

"For us, it's about sticking to our guns, not letting the lows get us too low and not letting the highs get us too high. It's about getting that balance."

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