ULSTER head coach Dan McFarland has played down the notion that his and his assistant coach Roddy Grant’s previous experience of coaching in Scotland could give the Northern Irishmen a valuable edge during Saturday evening’s PRO14 semi-final clash against Edinburgh at Murrayfield. 

McFarland was forwards coach with Glasgow Warriors between 2015 and 2017, then moved on to an assistant role with the Scotland national team for a year, working with the likes of Stuart McInally WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist and Hamish Watson, who will all be involved in Saturday’s match. Grant, meanwhile, played six seasons with Edinburgh before moving into coaching with the club between 2017 and 2019. 

“We've certainly got a bit of inside information, but most of this is played out on the pitch,” said McFarland. “As much as we as coaches would like to think we're the geniuses behind the manufacturing of performances in semi-finals, it's not the case. You don't really need to have the inside information to know what Edinburgh are about and what they've got on the pitch. You've got to watch the videos to get that, to go to games and be present there. I'm lucky enough that I have been to games and watched, so the inside information we have maybe helps a little bit but not really." 

Ulster coughed up 50 points when losing to Glasgow Warriors in last year’s semi-final, and McFarland is adamant that his team have learnt their lesson from that painful experience and won’t be caught in the hop again this time round. 

“We were knocked over by the first wave and then never got back to our feet...well not until it was too late,” he recalled. “Glasgow were excellent in that game and I said at the time that I’m not sure if even us at our best could have won that game, but there was still a disappointment we didn't play as well as we could have done, which really soured that experience for me.  

“I know there is a hunger in the squad this year that we want to give it our best shot this weekend. There's only ever been two away semi-final wins in the history of the PRO14, both by Scarlets, so we know the difficulty of the task, but we want to give it a better shot than last year. 

“It's odd in the sense that we're not in the end of a string of games," he added. "However, we talked about it today and all the work that has gone in from the tremendous support staff here and the young men who run out on to the pitch week-in, week-out to get us in a position where we do have a semi-final to play – we're relishing that opportunity we've manufactured for ourselves."