Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has rested four players for this Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Glasgow.
The team which will run out at Firhill shows four personnel changes and one positional switch from the starting XV that was defeated 20-9 by Leicester in the Heineken Cup last weekend.
Rory Best and Stephen Ferris have been rested as part of the IRFU’s player management programme, so Andi Kyriacou and Robbie Diack are direct replacements at hooker and blindside flanker. Chris Henry is also rested by McLaughlin and is replaced by Willie Faloon in the back row, but the rest of the pack remains unchanged.
In the backs, Craig Gilroy – who like Chris Henry has played in all of Ulster’s 10 games so far this season – gets a well earned break from the action. The one positional change sees Simon Danielli move from fullback to his customary wing position in place of Gilroy, while Adam D’Arcy is promoted from the bench to play at the back.
Tim Barker, Mike McComish and Ian Whitten are all named among the replacements.
Both Ulster and Glasgow emerged from the opening rounds of the Heineken Cup with one win and a loss. They will now turn their attentions to the PRO12, where the Scottish outfit currently occupy one of the fourth playoff spot. Ulster sit in 7th position, 5 points adrift of Friday’s opponents.
Glasgow’s five game winning run in all competitions came to a halt against Leinster in the Heineken Cup on Sunday. The Warriors have won five of their last six matches in the RaboDirect PRO12 tournament, and have been victorious in their last three encounters at Firhill.
The Ulstermen will approach this game with confidence, having won five of their last six matches against Scottish opponents. The two side met in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, with Ulster claiming a 28-14 win at Ravenhill courtesy of tries from Paul Marshall, Darren Cave and Chris Henry.
McLaughlin is wary of how difficult a task his side are facing:
“Whenever you’re playing a Scottish side you’ve got to make your breakdown as accurate and as positive as possible. They’ll be all over you like a rash so we’ve got to make sure that we’re clinical in there and that we’re producing the ball.
“The other thing is that with Scottish sides buzzing about all over the place, you’ve got to make sure you keep their forwards all in one place as much as possible. We’ve talked about varying little things, varying our lineouts and what we’re doing off them. Hopefully that will help us as the game progresses.”
The defeat at Leicester was one of Ulster’s better performances this season to date, but McLaughlin insists there is still plenty to work on:
“Welford Road at the weekend was annoying. We had everything more or less right but we just made little areas at crucial time which cost us. We played through some fantastic phases but made mistakes in crucial areas. If we’re going to go on and get to where we want to be as a team then we’ve got to eradicate those individual errors.”
Ulster: (15-9): Adam D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Simon Danielli, Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall. (1-8): Tom Court, Andi Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Willie Faloon, Pedrie Wannenburg (16-23): Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, Tim Barker, Mike McComish, Ian Porter, Paddy Jackson, Ian Whitten
Glasgow: (15-9): Stuart Hogg, David Lemi, Troy Nathan, Graeme Morrison, Federico Aramburu, Duncan Weir, Henry Pyrgos. (1-8): Jon Welsh, Pat MacArthur, Mike Cusack, Tom Ryder, Al Kellock (captain), Rob Harley, John Barclay, Ryan Wilson. (16-23): Finlay Gillies, Ryan Grant, Moray Low, Richie Gray, Chris Fusaro, Chris Cusiter, Alex Dunbar, Colin Shaw
I nearly let out a small yelp of delight when my eye scanned over a back row of Wannenburg, Faloon and Diack but it was quickly stifled as I noticed that Wannenburg is at 8 and Diack is at 6, which is neither of their strongest positions if you ask me! However it’s a start and big games are needed from Diack and Faloon if they are going to continue to enjoy our unwavering promotion for a starting birth when we get to the business end of the season!
No run outs for Black and Luke Marshall as McLaughlin looks to keep changes to a minimum now that Ulster has found a degree of coherence in the last match and Gilroy and Henry are deserving of their break. No one has given more to Ulster, through the good and the bad, than Henry over the last few months and young Gilroy (and Jackson, L Marshall, McKinney, Henderson) had a particularly draining JWC in Italy during the summer, with the jinking winger looking exhausted whenever I bumped into him.
On paper it doesn’t look an overly strong Glasgow side, but they have been playing well as a team, until last week that is, but I’d like to think that Ulster have the wherewithal to dispose of their doughty opponents reasonably comfortably.
I hope this is a game where we get a chance to have a look at Porter and Jackson as I’d like to see them up against Cuisiter and Weir later on in the match.
Bonus point win for Ulster!