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ERCC: Ulster v Bordeaux Preview
Our rugby scribe give his verdict for Saturday's European Rugby Champions Cup game between Ulster and Bordeaux.
Saturday's most absorbing Pool 5 clash sees Ulster host Bordeaux-Begles at the Kingspan Stadium, with both sides aiming to qualify in second place behind the mighty Clermont.
Ulster v Bordeaux | Saturday 21 January | Kingspan Stadium | 15:00
To Win (80 mins)
Ulster 1/20 | Draw 25/1 | Bordeaux 9/1
Ulster's most recent away loss to Exeter was a hammer blow to their chances of advancing beyond the pool stages of this season's ERCC. The win allowed the English side to leapfrog both Ulster and Bordeaux into second place, one point above the French and two points above the Irish. Ulster's hopes of qualifying hinge on a home win this weekend, and they will be feeling the pressure -especially considering that they went down to the same side 28-13 in October.
Ulster will be encouraged by the form of winger Charles Piutau, who scored a well-taken try last time out. The New Zealander will have to play out of his socks this weekend, while the likes of cool heads Rory Best and Andrew Trimble will have to come to the fore if Ulster grind out a vital win.
Bordeaux meanwhile, come into this one off the back of a horrific run of results. Raphaël Ibañez's side have lost their last five games in succession, a trend that has seen them drop to seventh on the Top 14 log, and third in their European Pool. 'Les Girondins' are low on confidence, and will go into this weekend's clash knowing that only a win can give them a chance to qualify for the knockouts (and even then they may fall short).
Bordeaux will be hoping that the likes of (Ireland international flyhalf) Ian Madigan can find his best form this weekend. While winger Adam Ashley-Cooper and fullback Jean-Marcellin Buttin will look to add some much-needed grunt from the back three. The Whites' 6-9 defeat to Clermont last weekend lacked cohesion and urgency, something they'll look to rectify to put themselves in with a shout on Saturday.
Verdict: Ulster 1/20
Home ground advantage should see Ulster pip this one by between 3 and 5 points, though a win may not be enough for either side, depending on the result of the Clermont v Exeter game. Expect a tense, exciting finish to this one!