Ulster Coach Brian McLaughlin had named his starting XV and replacements for this Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash against Northampton Saints at Stadium:MK in Milton Keynes (KO 2pm).
Captained by Rory Best, there is just once change in the starting line-up from the side which defeated Llanelli Scarlets at Ravenhill in the Magners League last week, with Chris Henry starting in the openside berth ahead of Willie Faloon who is named on the bench.
The only other change amongst the replacements is the inclusion of prop Bryan Young who comes in with Declan Fitzpatrick unavailable having picked up a wrist injury.
Craig Gilroy, Ulster’s top try-scorer in the Magners League with seven tries from nine appearances could make his Heineken Cup debut if he comes off the bench during the game having been registered for the competition as an additional player.
The match will be shown live on Sky Sports and there will also be commentary on Radio Ulster 1341 MW from 2pm.
ULSTER: (15-9) Adam D’Arcy; Andrew Trimble, Nevin Spence, Paddy Wallace, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar (1-8) Tom Court, Rory Best (Captain), BJ Botha, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg
Replacements: (16-23) Andi Kyriacou, Paddy McAllister, Bryan Young, Tim Barker, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Craig Gilroy
OK so with the exception of Bryan Young for Fitzpatrick it’s pretty much as predicted though I see they didn’t go for my idea of benching Diack, and Tuohy to bring them with Kyriacou and McAllister for a fast paced last 30 from the forwards.
The non selection of Faloon does worry me slightly though, as it does limit our back row options off the bench, and it looks like they are choosing to counteract Northampton’s strengths rather than select to our own. However if the back row can remain injury free the option of bringing on Faloon for Henry will change Ulster’s forward play sufficiently to introduce a new dimension in the closing stages.
Looking at the head to heads below actually fills me with a great deal of confidence:
|Adam D’Arcy||15||Ben Foden|
|Andrew Trimble||14||Chris Ashton|
|Nevin Spence||13||Jon Clarke|
|Paddy Wallace||12||James Downey|
|Simon Danielli||11||Paul Diggin|
|Ian Humphreys||10||Stephen Myler|
|Ruan Pienaar||9||Lee Dickson|
|Tom Court||1||Soane Tonga’uiha|
|Rory Best||2||Dylan Hartley|
|BJ Botha||3||Brian Mujati|
|Johann Muller||4||Courtney Lawes|
|Dan Tuohy||5||Christian Day|
|Robbie Diack||6||Phil Dowson|
|Chris Henry||7||Tom Wood|
|Pedrie Wannenburg||8||Roger Wilson|
|Andi Kyriacou||16||Brett Sharman|
|Paddy McAllister||17||Alex Waller|
|Bryan Young||18||Tom Mercey|
|Tim Barker||19||Mark Sorenson|
|Willie Faloon||20||Calum Clark|
|Paul Marshall||21||Stuart Commins|
|Ian Whitten||22||Shane Geraghty|
|Craig Gilroy||23||Bruce Reihana|
There is no one particular position where we are substantially out-gunned and with Muller, Tuohy, Diack, Wannenburg, Botha, Pienaar, Humphreys, Trimble and Spence I would say we have a definite edge in the man to man situations – provided, and a big provided, that our boys are all on the top of their game. What the hell I’d also add five more from the bench who’d be more than capable of making a match changing appearance if required.
The calls are close though and with so much talent on show from both sides this game could go either way. The big deciding factors are going to be character and belief and while Northampton may be a very good team brimming with confidence on the crest of a couple of impressive wins they have yet to convince when the heat is on. In fact the last couple of times their players had their character and belief questioned, in the Heineken last season and during the Internationals this season they came up way, way, short. Ulster on the other hand should have those two characteristics sufficiently topped up!
Ulster by 10. No last minute heroics required.