Leinster's demolition of Ulster was as impressive for Irish rugby as it was concerning. Ulster has been woefully inconsistent this year and if not for a Sam Arnold red card could conceivably have lost against Leinster, Munster and Connacht recently. The province approaches a huge European weekend next, in what could be a season-defining series of games.
Donncha O'Callaghan is currently captain of Worcester Warriors while also doing some punditry and media work. He's proved to be the latest former Irish rugby player who offers an insightful and fresh take on the game. Speaking on Off the Ball tonight, O'Callaghan had some interesting thoughts on Ulster's current predicament, particularly the off-field work: "I question the intensity in their training levels. "
There's something up for sure. The last two European games maybe masked a lot. Part of me was looking at them in the Leinster match, I was actually questioning their fitness level. In the end, I actually had to credit Leinster for it. They just played them at a pace that they couldn't live with. I don't think Ulster are unfit but I think the execution of skill under fatigue, they were really poor. They made so many individual errors.
O'Callaghan feels the rush to blame management is unfair, pointing the finger at the figures who feature regularly within the camp:
It really annoys me when people start blaming the coaching ticket, I just remember with Munster all the time it was the guys who were their week in week out the John Kelly's, the Anthony Foley's, the Mike Prendergast's, they weren't up in Irish camp. But when you came back, you had to fall into their standards. Sometimes I question if too much is left to the leader's in the group: the Rory Bests', the Andrew Trimble's, even Iain Henderson since he's come in. The guys that are there week in week out, they need to step up.
Ulster's initial priority is to secure a new out-half, as they search through the Japanese league in a bid to find a temporary replacement. Beyond that, a couple of big results next could lift the mood surrounding the province and allow for a strong finish to their season.
You can listen to the comments in full here.