JERRY Flannery believes Ulster are the strongest team left in the Challenge Cup ahead of tonight’s showdown at The Stoop.
The former Munster and Ireland hooker was quick to dismiss Ulster boss Dan McFarland’s suggestions that Quins are the favourites to win the tournament. You can bet on this game at Quinnbet with 50% moneyback or a £5 free bet using bonus code ‘TOP100’ upon registration.
Flannery says the decision to end the PRO14 season early has left Ulster with nothing else to play for between now and the end of the season.
“I would say Ulster are probably the strongest team. Dan is probably pissed off that the PRO14 was called off early this season and didn’t get a chance at knockout rugby,” said Quins lineout coach Flannery.
“He will be gunning for this game very hard. Ulster were in a bad place before Dan came in, and I felt really bad for everyone.
“Dan has turned the club around. I used to pick his brains when I was with Munster.”
Quins will have to overcome an awful record against Ulster to progress into the quarter-finals, having lost five of their last seven meetings between the sides.
Flannery admits that because of the physical nature of the Premiership, Quins have had to ring the changes to the team that lost to Bristol last weekend in the final seconds.
Scotsmen James Lang and Scott Steele return after the Six Nations while Elia Elia, Santiago Garcia Botta, Will Collier, Nathan Earle, and Paul Lasike also come into the side.
Former England U20 lock George Hammondmakes his first start while Academy duo Matas Jurevicius and Jack Stafford could make their debuts off the bench. Quins have rested Mike Brown, Joe Marchant, Marcus Smith, Danny Care, Joe Marler, Will Evans, Andre Esterhuizen, Wilco Louw and Alex Dombrandt.
Flannery said: “As there is no other rugby outside the Premiership what we have been trying to do when we get the opportunity is give others game time. We know the team we played against Bristol is not going to be able to manage all the way through until the end of the season.
“The league is so physical we wanted to rotate some players but we won’t put out a team that we don’t think will win.
“We have hit a fine run of form and understand that form is fragile. Ulster are going to test us in terms of our ability to match their work rate.”
Flannery added: “They have some real gamebreakers. The Irish sides in the PRO14 are really, really fit but probably do not have the same mass.
“That league is not as physical as the Premiership, but they are super fit, and they do all of the little things really well for 80 minutes.
“We are not going to change what we do. We are just going to be aware of what they do well and how we can try and stop them doing their plan. If you can stop their big players you are in with a chance.”
By NEIL FISSLER
HARLEQUINS: Green; Northmore, Lang, Lasike, Earle; Herron, Steele; Garcia Botta, Elia, Collier, Tizard, Hammond, White, Kenningham, Lawday (c)
Replacements: Head, Els, Kerrod, Cavubati, Jurevicius, Stafford, Tapuai, R Chisholm
Ulster: Lowry; Baloucoune, Hume, McCloskey, Stockdale; Burns, Cooney; O’Sullivan, Herring, Moore, O’Connor, Treadwell, Reidy, Murphy (c), Timoney
Replacements: Andrew, Warwick, O’Toole, Izuchukwu, Rea, Mathewson, Madigan, McIlroy