Champions Cup: McFarland aiming to build Ulster cohesion ahead of Bath tie

Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale were part of the Ulster team which defeated Leicester Tigers at Welford Road last season
Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale were part of the Ulster team which defeated Leicester Tigers at Welford Road last season
Champions Cup: Bath v Ulster
Venue: The Recreation Ground Date: Saturday, 16 November Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster and the BBC Sport website; match report on the BBC Sport website

Ulster coach Dan McFarland says he hopes the return of key players from injury and World Cup duty will help "build more cohesion" in his side.

Ulster go into Saturday's Champions Cup opener against Bath on the back of four wins and two defeats in the Pro14.

"Through the start of the season we've been a little bit disjointed in our play and also in the combinations we've been able to put on the park.

"Injuries have been keeping players out but they're back in," said McFarland.

Iain Henderson, Marcell Coetzee, Billy Burns, Will Addison and Louis Ludik are all set to be fit to play in the European opener, with Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Rob Herring and Jordi Murphy having returned from Ireland World Cup duty.

"The players are getting fit so what we need to do is build a little bit of cohesion," added the Ulster coach.

"In areas of the game where you want players playing together to build a little bit of rhythm, like the half-backs, like the centres, the back three, the back row, we've been a little bit disjointed.

"The odd injury here, the odd injury there, which is keeping guys out - then they're coming back in.

"Hopefully now we'll start putting those combinations together and get a little bit more rhythm and cohesion in what we are doing."

'We will have our hands full'

Bath lie ninth in the English Premiership but saw off Northampton 22-13 on Saturday and also have their World Cup players back in harness for the clash at The Recreation Ground.

"Their front five is strong, their lineout is one of the best in the Premiership, if not the best, and so is their lineout defence.

"Their scrum demolished Northampton last week and that was really impressive to watch. To be able to do that against Northampton takes some doing so if we can't get out stuff right over there we'll be in trouble.

"They have Rhys Priestland at 10, who kicks the ball a long way and controls the game really well. Their threats from 13 outwards are massive.

"They have electric runners and you throw in Jamie Roberts, a Lions centre and a bit of a legend in the sport, and you know we will have our hands full."

More tight games expected

Ulster reached the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition for the first time in five years last season, having won five of their six pool matches to progress - before losing to Leinster in the last eight.

This term they will also come up against French giants Clermont Auvergne and another English side in the form of Harlequins.

"There is a confidence we can draw from last season - we put in some really good performances in Europe and we were lucky we built a bit of momentum there.

"We managed to put out a fairly steady team throughout that period, which certainly helped us, and although some of those games were really tight ultimately we got the wins we needed.

"I expect we will have the same tight games this year and every game in Europe is a huge challenge.

"If you lose your first game you are on the back foot straight away as there are only six games. It took five wins to get through last season so if you lose one you have to bank on winning the remaining five."

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