Touch Wood, but Ulster have a game to look forward to over the weekend, provided there are no further Covid issues in either squad, Dan McFarland’s side will head to Thomond Park on Saturday to take on Munster.
After watching their games against Connacht and Leinster from the spread of the Omicron version to the team at Kingspan Stadium, there is excitement to be back in action.
However, before they even get to the pitch, many questions still hang over how Ulster can perform given the extent of their outbreak, especially against a team tougher than they played last week.
Assuming the game goes ahead, here are the key points hanging out on Saturday.
How exactly will Ulster be affected by COVID-19?
While the squad that took the field on Saturday may have tested negative, how much the virus will affect their performance is yet to be revealed.
With Omicron left out of the squad, it is highly likely that McFarland will have to call some of the players at Thomond Park who were among the first wave to test positive, while it is believed that none of them had mild symptoms. Were not more, prolonged Covid can still have an impact, especially in the intense environment of a rugby match.
McFarland admitted that he cannot expect a full-blooded approach because of his brief hiatus, adding: “You step back a little bit … any time you go to and from rugby. take some time out for it, you need to get back into it.”
Can Ulster really tell its players to go hammer and tongs for the full 80 minutes? Chances are they will face some storms.
no thomond factor
Münster has had its fair share of problems recently between being stranded in South Africa, with head coach Johan van Gran confirming he is jumping ship at the end of the season, and a disappointing performance against Connacht last week. Used to be.
But the biggest blow is the latest Irish COVID ban, which has reduced their vocal domestic support by the Dublin government to just 5,000.
A hostile environment for visiting teams has largely been ruled out, and with Ulster’s away record during the lockdown, winning seven out of eight at the URC, they are on their first win in the South since 2014 under similar conditions. Will keep an eye
Ulster still doesn’t have the thunderous ball carriers in their pack that the likes of Leinster, Racing 92, Saracens or Toulouse can claim, and it says a lot that much of their game plan is still centered around Stuart McCloskey. revolves around physicality. The first receiver to compensate.
They will come up against another forward group on Saturday, who have been stacked with abrasive Trojans with the ball in hand, with the likes of Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhag Beerne, Peter O’Mahony and Gavin Combs in charge of Munster.
But what Ulster’s forward lacks in hole-punching carry, he specializes in finding gaps with short passes and elite handling that can catch sleeping pillar defenders at work and create attack opportunities.
If they take Munster to their own game they won’t win on Saturday. Connacht picked up the pace to put Van Gran’s side on the back foot for the second half, and McFarland would ask his forward to do the same.
Hume Taking Center Stage
It cannot be denied that James Hume is one of the in-form centers not only in Ireland but also in Europe, but with McCloskey being out, he will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility on his own, especially defensively.
It’s not to be talked about who will be his partner on Saturday, but at least some of Hume’s success has come from McCloskey’s ability to attract defenders, who stunned the 23-year-old with his pace and dazzling footwork. allows it to shine.
This would be the perfect time to prove that he can take on the lion’s share of the workload ahead of what is expected of a bigger role in the Six Nations for Ireland, and whether he is currently one of the best centers in world rugby, Damien D. Must stand in front of Allende. , their meeting should produce some spectacular New Year’s fireworks.