Heineken Champions Cup: La Rochelle ‘offer bigger physical attributes’ than Sale – McFarland

Heineken Champions Cup: La Rochelle 'offer bigger physical attributes' than Sale - McFarland

Ulster suffered a chastening 39-0 defeat by Sale last weekend
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Date: Saturday, 17 December Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Sounds & BBC Radio Ulster

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland says La Rochelle will provide a bigger physical challenge than that presented by Sale when the sides meet on Saturday.

Ulster lost 39-0 away to Sale Sharks in their Heineken Champions Cup opener on Sunday while their French opponents saw off Northampton Saints 46-12.

“They [La Rochelle] offer bigger physical attributes,” said McFarland.

“We need to work harder than them and try and not let the juggernaut get up and running.”

La Rochelle dramatically defeated Leinster in last year’s Champions Cup decider and are coached by former Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara.

Ulster are hoping to claim a major scalp when they face the defending champions at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast in the hope of getting their hopes of making the knockout stage back on track.

“We were disappointed by our line speed against Sale, our inability to get in their faces and make tackles,” observed the Ulster coach of a very disappointing day at the AJ Bell Stadium.

“I didn’t feel we were soft in any way, just a bit of a technique malfunction and guys not being quite on it defensively. We’ve got to be smart and have the right mindset.

“We’ve knocked over big English, French and Irish teams in the past and there is no question what this team is capable of.

“With any team in any sport there are times when you don’t quite put things together and at the level we are playing at you don’t have to be far off for it to look nasty.”

Ulster are hopeful of having scrum-half John Cooney and captain Iain Henderson available again after they underwent HIA protocols following the Irish province’s United Rugby Championship loss to Leinster.

James Hume is set to be absent, however, as he was forced to come off for an HIA last weekend, while the fitness of Jacob Stockdale and Luke Marshall is still being assessed.

‘I know we’ll see a reaction’

McFarland says he is “looking for a reaction” from his players after their mauling at the hands of the English Premiership outfit.

“We have to own a 39-0 defeat. We were bitterly disappointed by our performance and we can play a lot better than that.

“We’re looking at what we got wrong and how we have to try and fix that.

“We have an honest group of lads and we measure ourselves by certain standards. The challenge for us is having a reaction and I know we’ll see that at the weekend.

“We’re facing one of the best two teams in Europe and that is exciting in itself.

“You don’t want to make it all about what happened last weekend. The approach might be slightly different to what it would have been if we had gone over there and won but it is what it is.”

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