Ulster Rugby head coach Dan McFarland hailed Stade Rochelais as “one of the top two teams in Europe” as he prepared to take his side to Stade Marcel Deflandre on Saturday to face the reigning champions in Round 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup.

The TOP 14 side are already leading Pool B after back-to-back victories, whereas Ulster lie in 10th thanks to two bonus points gained in their 36-29 home defeat by La Rochelle in Round 2.

“We’ll keep the emphasis on standards of execution at training this week, looking at the way we play,” McFarland said.

“Our minds will be on going away to La Rochelle and that will focus everybody. They are probably one of the top two teams in Europe, so it’s a big challenge to test yourself against the very best and is something we will look forward this week.”

Hooker Rob Herring is looking forward to what he described as “a different challenge” after heart-breaking United Rugby Championship losses at home to Munster Rugby (15-14) and at Benetton Rugby (31-29) the last two weekends.

“European games are a different challenge, but we’ve got to start the week and flip the switch,” he said. “Our last game against La Rochelle, we let them get ahead in the first half, but second half we did better on the scoreboard, so we’ve got to take that.

“There are moments in games where we need to control things better and we need to get that right. We are still a good side, play some brilliant rugby, and show heart, so we need to join all of these against La Rochelle.”