Forward battle to the fore as Lions face Ulster in URC
The match will be played on the infamous 4G pitch and getting to grips with that will also be extremely important for the Lions.
Lions prop JP Smith in action during a URC match earlier this year. Smith says the forward battle will be key when they face Ulster in Belfast on Friday night. Picture: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images
A classic forward battle is on the cards when the Lions take on Ulster in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Friday night.
The visitors will be hoping to get some good ascendancy at the set pieces to give them the platform to possibly shock the in-form hosts in what should be an entertaining game.
Ulster are currently fourth on the URC log, having won three and lost just one game so far this season, while the Lions head into the match having lost three and won once.
Crucially however the visitors go into the match off the back of their first win against Scarlets and Lions prop JP Smith believes that the set piece battle could be one that decides the match.
“Ulster is always a challenge. They have got a very good forward back with a lot of depth in the squad, so the mauls and scrums are going to key. We have got a plan and just need to stick to it and limit mistakes,” explained Smith ahead of the game.
“We are lucky with our set piece in that we get a good base from the scrums. All the mistakes were of our own doing and not from the opposition outclassing us.
“In the last game (against Scarlets), I would say, we were maybe at 50, 60% of our potential. But if you win ugly, then it still looks good. The guys never gave up. I am very positive about the season ahead.”
The match will be played on the infamous 4G pitch and getting to grips with that will also be extremely important for the Lions if they want to get a foothold in the game.
Although they have played on it over the past two seasons it is still not a pitch that they play on very often, so time the South African teams do they have to get used to it as fast as possible.
“It is an adjustment, but we have scrummed on it a few times,” said Smith when commenting on the 4G pitch.
“On a normal grass pitch, there is a bit of give and it is very important to set yourself in the right place for the hit, otherwise you will be over-extended. We must find the balance to find that space.”