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15th Sep 2020

Ulster still missing big names while Marcell Coetzee a doubt for Toulouse

Patrick McCarry

Marcell Coetzee

You really have to hand it to Dan McFarland. He was not sugar-coating it today.

We are three days out from Leinster defeating Ulster 27-5 in the Guinness PRO14 Final and just four days from the Ulstermen’s pick-me-up game against Toulouse. As challenges go, Ulster are right in the middle of a mighty one.

McFarland spoke after the final about taking pride from reaching the final but coming back in on Tuesday morning to review their loss fully before moving on. To the Ulster coach, it is perfectly normal to hurt.

Asked how he is feeling after a couple of days of reflection, McFarland responds, “To be honest, it’s very difficult.

“With any loss, in terms of life as well, there’s a process of grieving and catharsis that need you to go through. Well certainly I do, anyway. The 48 hours after the final were as difficult as I’ve done in a long time.

“But you have to go through that and my experience is, I have a process that I go through for work where I do a lot of thinking and a bit of talking with people. At some point, you get through that and the things that you need to do become apparent. The way to move forward becomes clear. It has to be done.”

Looking ahead to the “big-time” game against Toulouse, which will take place at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday afternoon, McFarland will not have the cavalry riding to the rescue. Ulster are without some senior stars since the season resumed and there have been no miracle comebacks in the past few days.

The Connacht and Scotland assistant coach spoke about the process he prefers whenever his side have lost a game but need to get themselves up for the next match.

“Let’s say it’s a Monday morning – it’s Tuesday this week – but everyone comes in, they’re a bit miserable and a bit down. Some if the guys are able to pick guys up. Others might not have performed well themselves or might be worried about the fact that they need to pick themselves up and get better.

“But that morning is for review. It’s four hours of catharsis and learning, where we suck it up, we face down what we didn’t get right, we acknowledge if we were good enough or not, and we decide on the things we are going to do to get better. Then, in the great words of [Jets coach] Rex Ryan, we go get some snacks.

“We go for some lunch, we come back and BANG, it’s Toulouse. And that’s it.”

That means the likes of Luke Marshall, Robert Baloucoune and Will Addison will all miss out on the trip to France. There was good news about captain Iain Henderson, who made his comeback in that PRO14 final, but Marcell Coetzee’s fitness is more of a grey area.

“Iain came through really well. I thought he did a remarkable job… he’s good to go. Marcell is tight enough. Marcell had a tough week, last week, physically. He’s carrying a couple of niggles going into the game and didn’t train as much as he would have wanted, or we would have wanted. In the game, he tightened up as well.

“As far as he’s concerned, we’ll have to see how he goes this week. We’re tracking really well this week but there’s nobody new back.”

Toulouse are dealing with a couple of injury issues themselves after getting through five rounds of the new Top 14 season. They are currently fourth in their league and are playing some expansive rugby.

There will be several thousand French supporters allowed into the game so while the quarter final will not be played in a white-hot atmosphere, there will be a bit of vim at Stade Ernest Wallon this Sunday.

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