McCall: Heineken Cup final a 50/50 game01/05/2012 - 14:40:45
Former Ulster Coach Mark McCall believes Ulster have a 50/50 chance of overcoming Leinster in the Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham on May 19.
McCall left Ulster in 2007 and took up a coaching position for French Top 14 side Castres before joining Saracens in 2009.
With an influx of southern hemisphere stars adding to well nurtured home talent, Ulster have made significant strides since McCall’s departure and the Bangor native believes great credit is due to Director of Rugby David Humphreys and his staff.
“I think it’s a remarkable achievement to have turned around the situation that Ulster were in three years ago to a European Cup Final and to have assembled the squad that they have.
“I think a lot of people deserve to get a lot of credit for that and it’s a brilliant achievement.
"I think David Humphreys deserves a great amount of credit for the recruitment job he’s done.
“Not only has he managed to bring world class players to Belfast to supplement the local talent but they’re also very influential and good people who have helped to create a very good culture at the province."
Having come through a pool featuring Clermont Auvergne and Leicester Tigers before overcoming Munster in the Thomond Park in the quarter-finals, Ulster have produced some outstanding performances to secure a place in the final.
Despite the fact that Leinster will be favourites to retain their status as European champions McCall believes Ulster are capable of causing an upset and for him it’s anyone’s game.
“For me the final is a 50/50 game. When Ulster have their best team on the pitch and when they bring their best game, which they are more than capable of doing, then they have every chance.
"Leinster are a great side and they’ve had a phenomenal season. Their win/loss record is incredible but Ulster’s set-piece is a real strength at the moment.
“ I thought Declan Fitzpatrick did brilliantly on the weekend and assuming that John Afoa comes back in they really do have a scrum to be reckoned with which is very important at that level of rugby.
"Ulster's lineout is a real trump card and they could put Leinster under some pressure there in the final – they’ve just got players that are on form and for me it’s a 50/50 game."
McCall captained the Ulster team in their triumphant 1998/99 campaign but he missed the final against Colomiers due to injury.
While he still looks back fondly on the campaign, he feels that Ulster are now ready to take their place among the European heavyweights.
"1999 was a long time ago now. It was important and will always be special for those of us who were involved in it.
“For me, the quarter-final game against Munster was a real defining moment for Ulster in terms of their record in the Heineken Cup competition.
“Defeating Munster down there in such an important game is almost like a changing of the guard in some respects."
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