Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named a 35 man squad ahead of Friday’s Magners League encounter against the Scarlets at Ravenhill (ko 7.05pm).
Ian Humphreys and BJ Botha return to the preliminary squad which will face their Welsh play-off rivals. Botha has not played since injuring his elbow before Christmas while Humphreys pulled a hamstring during training in February. The return of both players will be a timely boost for Ulster with a string of important matches coming up.
Captain Rory Best is back in contention for a starting place after coming on after 50 minutes last week against Glasgow. Conor Gaston is named in the preliminary squad for the third week running after impressive performances in his first two appearances.
Ulster currently sit third in the Magners League after a run of five straight wins and will be hoping to continue their rise up the table. With a Heineken Cup Quarter Final against Northampton just 9 days after Scarlets, McLaughlin will be hoping for an improved performance after scraping past Aironi and Dragons in their last two outings.
The Scarlets occupy 6th position but are just 5 points adrift of Ulster and with a Magners League semi-final spot up for grabs, it promises to be a tense game.
FORWARDS: Jerry Cronin, Declan Fitzpatrick, Tom Court, BJ Botha, Paddy McAllister, Bryan Young, Rory Best, Nigel Brady, Andi Kyriacou, Ryan Caldwell, Dan Tuohy, Johann Muller, Tim Barker, Pedrie Wannenburg, TJ Anderson, Willie Faloon, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.
BACKS: Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Niall O’Connor, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence, Paddy Wallace, Darren Cave, Mark McCrea, Andrew Trimble, Simon Danielli, Tommy Seymour, Craig Gilroy, Conor Gaston, David McIlwaine, Jamie Smith, Adam D’Arcy.
Humph and Botha return but still no Ferris so it looks like the big man will only be playing a bit part, at best, against Northampton.
It is likely that McLaugh’s will look to give, what he feels, is his best side a run out prior to the Heineken Cup fixture though Botha will probably start from the bench giving a team that looks something like this: -
The Ulster XXIII: (15-9) D’Arcy, Trimble, Spence, Wallace, Danielli, Humphreys, Pienaar. (1-8) Court, Best, Fitzpatrick, Muller, Tuohy, Henry, Faloon, Wannenburg. (16-23) Kyriacou, Botha, McAllister, Barker, Diack, Marshall, Cave, Gaston.
Myself I’d go for something like this: -
The FRONT ROW UNION XVIII: (15-9) Gaston, Trimble, Cave, Wallace, Gilroy, Humphreys, Pienaar. (1-8) McAllister, Kyriacou, Court, Muller, Barker, Wannenburg, Faloon, Diack. (16-23) Best, Botha, Fitzpatrick, Tuohy, Henry, Marshall, Spence, Danielli.
Let me know what you think below.