Pro14: Ulster skills coach Dan Soper 'upset' by latest Luke Marshall injury

Luke Marshall
Luke Marshall was forced to come off with an injury during the win over Scarlets

Ulster skills coach Dan Soper says he is "bitterly disappointed" by the latest injury setback to afflict the province's centre Luke Marshall.

The extent of the knee ligament injury sustained by Marshall in Sunday's 26-24 Pro14 win over Scarlets is yet to be ascertained as Ulster say he "remains under medical assessment".

"We'll wait and see how significant, or hopefully otherwise, the injury is and go from there," said Soper.

"I was upset to see him get injured."

Marshall's career has been beset by injuries in recent seasons, with a hip injury sustained in July keeping him out of action for four months until his return to action in November.

The Ireland international was introduced as a replacement in the win over Cardiff Blues and then started the subsequent victory over Glasgow.

"I told him I didn't really want to see him back in our wee skills group of injured players, I had seen enough of him over the last couple of years!," added Soper.

"Given the battles Luke has had over the last couple of years everyone is very disappointed."

'Spark' missing in win over Scarlets

Ulster held off the determined challenge of Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium on Sunday to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, making it seven wins out of seven.

"We did a lot of good things in that game and obviously there was a lot didn't go as we would have liked," explained Soper.

"We lacked a bit of the spark we had in recent games but you have to give a lot of credit to the Scarlets. They put us under a lot of pressure.

"We missed too many opportunities where we created half-chances. Discipline was a big factor that didn't allow us to generate any momentum."

'Very much in the here and now'

Ulster dramatically defeated Edinburgh in last-gasp fashion in their Pro14 semi-final at Murrayfield in early September but the Ulster skills coach believes that encounter will have little bearing on Monday's meeting between the sides at the same venue.

"Given the circumstances in which we won that game I'm sure it will figure in Edinburgh's pre-match chat but there has been a lot of rugby played since then and we are very much in the here and now.

"We will have a plan to try and be better than we were last weekend and also better than we were back in that semi-final.

"It's not just the time training on the pitch that helps bring that about - it's the diligence the guys show off the pitch in analysing and assessing what they are doing. That's where the gains are made."

Performance paramount

Soper says while the results of recent months may be grabbing the headlines, the coaching team at Ulster remain focused on performances as they begin to plan for the European Champions Cup campaign ahead.

"Ultimately as coaches we are driving performance as you can't control so many factors that impact on the outcome as a result.

"We'll take a lot of confidence out of it if we are able to win this weekend but more importantly we look to have an improved performance.

"We will look to Europe in due time but firstly we want to focus on this weekend and finish this bloc of games on a high."

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