The Ulster team to play Glasgow this Friday night at Ravenhill (ko 7.05pm) has been named.
Rory Best will captain the side in a match which will see him make his 100th competitive appearance for Ulster.
Amongst the backs there are two positional changes as Paddy Wallace is restored to the inside centre position after playing at out-half against Connacht last weekend and Andrew Trimble reverts to the wing from the centre. Scottish international Simon Danielli returns to action following shoulder surgery in the summer while new signing Ruan Pienaar will make a much anticipated debut in front of the Ravenhill crowd in the scrum-half position, partnering Niall O’Connor at out-half.
Up front Ulster retain Young, Best and Court in the front row while Johann Muller, who was rested for last weekend’s match against Connacht returns to the second row, partnered for the first time this season by Dan Tuohy. In the back row Pedrie Wannenburg moves to cover the blindside berth in the absence of the injured Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry retains the openside shirt while Robbie Diack returns to the starting line-up at No.8.
With three props (BJ Botha, Declan Fitzpatrick and Adam Macklin) currently on the injured list, Ulster have drafted in the services of Alan Whitten who plays his club rugby for Instonians and he is named on the bench, alongside his brother, Ulster centre Ian.
Ulster: (15-9) Jamie Smith; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Simon Danielli; Niall O’Connor, Ruan Pienaar (1-8) Bryan Young, Rory Best (Captain), Tom Court, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack
Replacements (16-23) Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Alan Whitten, Tim Barker, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten
Well, a couple of surprises in there, most noticeably Dan Tuohy starting in second row and with Henry continuing at 7 one has to wonder just how much the selections are being influenced by D4?
We’re missing a player in the backs but my guess is it’s either D’Arcy or McIlwaine.
Ulster are certainly looking for improvements following their draw in Connacht and while Glasgow are going through a tough spell at the moment it must be remembered they’ve had the better of Ulster in recent seasons as Brian McLaughlin pointed out yesterday.
Saturday was frustrating for the squad. We were disappointed not to come away with the full four points, but it was a very full-blooded encounter. We had opportunities at the end and we need to be more ruthless to make sure we take those chances to guarantee our results.
Glasgow are a top quality side who have won three out of their last four matches at Ravenhill.
They’ll come here expecting a win, so we need to be at our best and if we want to stay at the top of the League, we need to win our home games.
Now restored to the centre Ulster’s Paddy Wallace will be looking for improvements as well, as he told the FRU,
I try to look at last Saturday as a positive rather than a negative as we didn’t lose the match. Over the past few years, with tight games such as Connacht, we’ve come away with a loss. There are certainly plenty of improvements we can make having watched the game back, but we’ll take those on board and use it for Glasgow. I think if everyone knows their jobs, in terms of game plan and its execution, then we’ll be looking at a win.
If you’d asked us at start of the year, if we would win three and draw one game, we’d have taken that. We’re winning matches that we would have lost in previous seasons, so that’s very positive for the squad.
Tom Court continued the general upbeat analysis of the season so far.
We’re happy to be where we are at the moment, with three wins and a draw, but I don’t think anyone is overly happy with how we have played in the games. There have been a lot of positives which we can take away, but the flow of our game hasn’t completely gelled yet. This is the best start to the season we have had in a while, but we’ve still a lot to work on.
We played into the oppositions’ hands last week with the errors we made, which we shouldn’t be doing at this level, so this week we will be focusing on getting the basics right. We’ll also be looking to continue with our defence as it’s been working really well.
Reading between the lines I’d say that a comfortable win is expected and I for one am particularly looking forward to seeing Pienaar run out under the Red Hand - exactly to the day I predicted all those months ago!