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'On field' legend O'Driscoll a 'virtual stranger' to Ulster Rugby - Neil Best

By Neil Best
Brian O'Driscoll adjusts his television ear piece before the Champions Cup game between Ulster and Exeter Chiefs at Kingspan Stadium in 2016

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It’s been another tough few days at Ulster Rugby in the build up to another hugely important game at Munster.

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There have been more than a few daft interventions – most notably from on-field Irish rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll – whatever his motivation he’s a virtual stranger to Ulster Rugby.

That said, many of the continued distractions from on-field activity have been created by the club itself.

Banning or restricting media access leads to greater media coverage – any fool could have told you that. And the coverage is further fuelled by the reports that the club are trying to suppress negative sentiment with respect to the CEO Shane Logan. Let’s see if the Munster staff try and remove any ‘Logan Out’ banners, if they don’t it will make Ulster look even more ridiculous for doing so. Certainly, no-one is going to remove my ‘Logan Out’ banner at the Singapore Sevens.

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And that’s where I plan to spend the greater part of the weekend – at the Singapore National Stadium watching top-class Sevens Rugby. A couple of weeks ago I predicted that Fiji, Kenya and South Africa would be the teams to watch.

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But having spent a little time with the Aussie team a few days ago, I think they may well find themselves right in the mix. Australia are drawn in Pool D alongside New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. The winners and runners up in the group will be paired with Pool A in the quarter finals -featuring Fiji, Russia, Spain and next season’s new comers Japan. That opens up a real route to the final for whoever comes out on top in Pool D.

Pool B featuring Kenya, USA, France and England will be paired for the knockout stages with Pool C -Samoa, Argentina, South Africa and last year’s surprise winners Canada.

Once the sun goes down on the first day of the Sevens I’ll turn my attention to Thomond Park but even with the weakened team named by Munster, it’s a big ask for Ulster to take five points. Even if Ulster managed the unthinkable, Edinburgh – playing two hours later – would know exactly what they would have to do in their home match with Glasgow.

And if Ulster get five, Edinburgh only need one. More than anything Ulster’s poor showing in Cardiff back in March has cost them – the three wins in a row since then have salvaged the prospects of Champions Cup Rugby for next season – sadly not Pro14 playoffs.

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When I did catch up with the Aussies this week I asked their new coach Tim Walsh what he made of his predecessor Andy Friend, given he’s been linked with Ulster for next season. It’s fair to say he wasn’t short on positivity and compliments. Make of that what you like.
Whenever a man’s friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.

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'On field' legend O'Driscoll a 'virtual stranger' to Ulster Rugby - Neil Best

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