To Belfast – Ulster v Wasps – A Preview

Today see’s the beginning of this seasons European Champions Rugby Cup and all eyes turn to Belfast tonight for the opener, where two times former winners Wasps, travel to play two times former winners, Ulster. What a mouthwatering prospect. 

Europe’s premier rugby competition rarely disappoints and it is pure heaven for the devoted rugby aficionado, with three days of dramatic rugby to come, games following each other thick and fast.

There is nothing quite like following your own team to foreign shores, the camaraderie and good nature of rugby supporters around the world ensures that, and a memorable time is guaranteed, win or lose. After some shared hospitality and bonhomie with the opposition supporters, all is well in the world, and rugby is always the winner. 

Wasps approach this match as giving them an opportunity for a new beginning after an indifferent start to the season, having just suffered four defeats on the bounce. Not that Dai Young, the Wasps head coach, will ever bemoan injuries as it is very much part of the modern game, but losing 15 players by early October has certainly had an impact on their results. Furthermore, criticism has been levelled from all quarters towards the ERC organising committee at Wasps’ five day turnaround following their defeat at Saracens last Sunday with ironically, the Saracens’ coach Mark McCall bring arguably the loudest objector. 

However,  Dai Young will not be making any excuses as he has known about this scenario for months and will have prepared accordingly. He will be quietly optimistic as a number of his big players are returning to the fold following the Saracens defeat, especially Dan Robson, who has been hugely missed, as well as Nathan Hughes, Joe Launcbury,  Christian Wade and Willie Le Roux. Rested and raring to go will be the Wasp supremo’s hopes. Only fly half Danny Cipriani and hooker Tommy Taylor remain long term absentees. 

Yet Wasps will have to contend with one of their own, Charles Pietau. A legend in his short time at Wasps two seasons ago, he really is an exceptional talent and has the ability to change games in the blink of an eye. He is now arguably the best full back in the world. 

Ulster have also had quite a sticky start to the season albeit have won five matches out of six in the Pro 14. In their last three matches they comfortably beat the Dragons but coach Les Kiss was unhappy, they just made it past Connacht by 16-8 following an exceptional length of the field try created by Pietau, when Kiss was far happier,  yet surprisingly lost away at Zebre, illustrating their fallibility. 

However, Ulster will be roared on by their boisterous supporters at Ravenhill, on another of those notorious Friday nightmatches under the lights. They will undoubtedly raise their game and with rain forecast, it could be an uncomfortable evening for the Wasps. However, the men from Coventry will be mightily determined, they will have been hugely upset at their season thus far and will be out to prove a point. 

Rugby does not get much better than this. Such excitement and anticipation. The rugby world awaits. Bring it on.

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