The provisional Ulster squad to face Leicester Tigers in Friday’s crucial Heineken Cup match with Leicester at Ravenhill has been named.
Pedrie Wannenburg (foot) and Ian Humphreys (hamstring) were forced off the field in the win over Edinburgh at the weekend but have both been named in the 33 man panel and are in contention to play in the Pool 4 clash. Young backline trio Luke Marshall, Paddy Jackson and Nevin Spence (all ankle) have returned to training this week and are available for selection if required. Mike McComish is also available after shaking off a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile prop Declan Fitzpatrick’s neck injury was reviewed last week and he is likely to be out of action for 4-6 weeks. Paddy McAllister and Peter Nelson also miss out.
Leicester have been hit by injuries to England internationals Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Louis Deacon who are all ruled out of the sell-out match. Flood’s replacement at flyhalf, Billy Twelvetrees, scored all of his side’s points in the 29-11 win over Wasps on Saturday.
Leicester have a formidable record in the Heineken Cup and have qualified for the knock-out stages ten times. They have contested five finals, winning back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002, but losing the showpiece matches in 1997, 2007 and 2009.
Ulster are currently top of Pool 4 on 14 points, with the Tigers trailing by two going into this crunch match. Defeat for either side would almost certainly end their dreams of reaching the last eight this season. Clermont Auvergne are just one point behind Leicester in the pool standings and will travel to Aironi this weekend before hosting Ulster the following week.
Forwards: Callum Black, Tom Court, Adam Macklin, John Afoa, Jerry Cronin, Andi Kyriacou, Nigel Brady, Rory Best, Lewis Stevenson, Johann Muller (captain), Dan Tuohy, Tim Barker, Neil McComb, Stephen Ferris, Pedrie Wannenburg, Willie Faloon, Mike McComish, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack
Backs: Paul Marshall, Ruan Pienaar, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, Paddy Wallace, Ian Whitten, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Stefan Terblanche, Craig Gilroy, Simon Danielli, Andrew Trimble, Adam D’Arcy
It’ll be pretty much the same squad as for the game against Edinburgh if the injury information is correct. It’s a big if as Ulster will not be keen to display their hand until the last minute, but assuming the injured duo have fully recovered then the decisions to be made concern the half back, back row and centre combinations.
It would be my guess that the half back paring of Pienaar and Humphreys will start with Marshall reserved as an option for a 20 minute cameo against a tiring defence. I think that they will go with Faloon at seven in the back row with Pedrie being benched, though with McLaughlin’s preference for safety first it is a close one to call.
Centre field should see the return of the Wallace and Cave partnership with Whitten doing enough in recent outings to claim a spot on the bench, so no return to action for Spence.