Ulster Team Manager, Bryn Cunningham, believes Ulster are in a great place ahead of the new campaign. With a solid pre-season behind the team, with new signings pushing for starting places and young Academy players putting their hands up for selection, he feels there are many reasons to be confident ahead of the start of the new campaign:
Bryn says: “I certainly feel that there is more depth in our squad than last season. Some of the guys that have come in have shown up really well and have impressed in pre-season. A number of young players have moved on another level as well. Players on development contracts or who are in the Academy but who have had that exposure now and we have seen their game, their understanding and their knowledge go up a notch. That is good because we will have to call upon those players in the early part of the season, when we have guys away on World Cup duty. So I think we are in a really, really good place.”
One thing the coaches have targeted is a strong start in the PRO12 and the first five rounds of the league campaign:
“It might seem obvious, but when you look at the analysis that is done, if you get off to a good start then it puts you in a great position at the end of the season,” says Bryn. “We don’t want any slip-ups at the start, as then you are chasing your tail. I think we have a good opportunity to start well.”
Joe Barakat joined the coaching set up at the start of July and Bryn, along with the other members of the management team, have been hugely impressed with what he has brought to Ulster Rugby:
“Joe has settled in really quickly,” he reveals. “He’s a really good character. He isn’t a direct replacement for Jonny Bell, they are just very different and their input is very different as well. Joe brings a huge amount of detail to the contact area and he has been outstanding. It’s great to have his fresh perspective, with his experience in the Southern Hemisphere and Japan. He has a great way about him on the pitch. He is authoritative but he also has a tremendous bond with the players. Certainly, he has that firmness and attention to detail that is crucial.”
Bryn, like all Ulster supporters, is just looking forward to watching the team play matches again after the summer break.
He says: “For me, the excitement is seeing how all the hard work in training will play out when we get to a game. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the new fellas will fare. So far they have been outstanding and they look like they will push for places, as do the young players coming through. Ultimately, it is matches that count and I’m looking forward to next Friday and the visit of Leinster.”