Ulster have been boosted by the return of a number of key players to the match day 23 for Friday’s vital RaboDirect PRO12 game against Scarlets at Ravenhill (kick off 7.05pm).
Brian McLaughlin has made five changes in total to his starting team, including four in the pack. Stephen Ferris, Rory Best, Craig Gilroy and Chris Henry are start, having been rested for last weekend’s defeat in Glasgow.
The Ulster coach can also call on prop John Afoa who has returned from New Zealand. The All Black replaces Declan Fitzpatrick who has been ruled out after suffering a neck injury during a scrum last week against Glasgow.
Best’s inclusion at hooker sees Andi Kyriacou drop out of the match day squad, as Nigel Brady retains his place on the bench. Ferris and Henry join Pedrie Wannenburg an experienced back row.
Craig Gilroy is named on the left wing in place of Scottish international Simon Danielli, who misses out on a squad place. The backs remain otherwise unchanged but Ruan Pienaar is named on the bench, despite not being named in the preliminary squad. The scrumhalf has been ruled out since picking up a hamstring injury against the Scarlets at the end of October.
Ulster (15-9): Adam D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Craig Gilroy, Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall. (1-8): T0m Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Stevie Ferris, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg. (16-23): Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, Louis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Ruan Pienaar, Patrick Jackson, Ian Whitten
Scarlets (15-9): Daniel Evans, Viliami Iongi, Nick Reynolds, Adam Warren, Sean Lamont, Stephen Jones (capt), Gareth Davies. (1-8): Phil John, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Lou Reed, Adam Powell Mat Gilbert, Rob McCusker, Kieran Murphy. (16-23): Emyr Phillips, Iestyn Thomas, Simon Gardiner, Damian Welch, Johnathan Edwards, Rhodri Williams, Daniel Newton, Iolo Evans.
Looking at the two line ups you would expect it to be a reasonably comfortable night for Ulster irrespective of whatever tactics they decide to play.
However such is Ulster’s fragility of confidence and our “most popular” game plan is so basic that this second string Scarlets side may be able to pitch their stall round the tactical kicking of Stephen Jones and grind out a result.
Ulster need to go out and play some rugby. That’s about it.