Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll last week described Ulster as a ‘basket-case’ and suggested Leinster player Jordi Murphy might be entitled to think twice about moving to the club.
Speaking on Off the Ball, O’Driscoll said of Ireland’s most northerly province: “They don’t have a coach, little bit of a basket case at the moment, and he’s going up there to try and play his rugby from next year on.”
O’Driscoll suggested Jordi Murphy’s imminent move north might not be a wise one.
“You look at someone like Jordi Murphy. I have to say, it can’t be easy playing some of the best rugby of his life, both from a Leinster perspective but also from Jordi’s perspective, where things are clearly not going right in Ulster.
His comments haven’t exactly gone down well at Ravenhill and one of their most celebrated sons – Jacob Stockdale – has now hit back.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the tryscoring machine didn’t pull his punches when defending his club.
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“I think he called us a basket case, which, to be honest, I think is ridiculous,” Stockdale told the Belfast Telegraph’s Joel Pattison. “We are competing for the PRO14 play-offs, we are actually in quite a good place and I think he could probably count on his hands how many times he has been up at Ulster Rugby in the last five years.
“So, I think the comments are pretty unfair.”
“In terms of within the club and in terms of the players there is absolutely no split,” he added.
“To be honest, everything that has gone on outside of Ulster Rugby and the stuff that you can’t control has almost galvanised us. We are a very close-knit group at the moment and I think that is being seen. We have pulled out performance on top of performance and we have started actually playing some really good rugby.”
Leinster and Ulster are also at the centre of another personnel issue – namely the IRFU wanting Leinster to send a player to Ulster to fill the vacant flyhalf spot.
It’s was reported on that weekend by Peter Reilly writing in the Sunday Times that Leinster are being pressured by the IRFU into choosing between two flyhalves to send to Ulster.
According to his report Joe Schmidt and IRFU performance director David Nucifora have impressed upon Leinster head coach Leo Cullen the need to send one of either Joey Carbery or Ross Byrne to Ulster.
The news has not gone down well in Leinster, who are apparently annoyed at having their hands forced at what is a crucial time of the season.
Ulster have struggled to fill the gap left by Paddy Jackson’s lack of availability throughout the season as he faced court charges and now that his IRFU contract has been ‘revoked’, the need for a first-rate flyhalf remains.
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