The team for tomorrow night’s friendly against Newcastle Falcons has been released:
Ulster take on Newcastle Falcons in their 2nd preseason friendly before the RaboPro12 league starts on the 31st August. After impressive performances in the sunshine against Leicester, Jared Payne, Michael Allen and Chris Farell, Luke Marshall, Michael Heaney retain their starting positions in the back line and are joined by Patrick Jackson at out half, in place of O’Connor, and Craig Gilroy returns from a knock to replace Chris Cochrane on the wing.
Rob Herring and Mike McComish are the only changes to the starting line up in the pack, Brady and Birch both benching.
Nick Williams got his Ulster career off to an impressive start with some good ball carries and trademark offloads and will once again pack down at number 8 alongside McComish and the impressive Robbie Diack.
The scrum pushed Leicester off the park last week and this weeks front row of Callum Black, Rob Herring and Declan Fitzpatrick will looking to emulate that performance against Newcastle tomorrow night.
Ulster v Newcastle: Friday 24th August, Kick off 7.30pm
Ulster: Jared Payne, Michael Allen, Chris Farrell, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Patrick Jackson, Michael Heaney, Callum Black, Rob Herring, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (c), Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Mike McComish, Nick Williams. Replacements: Niall Annett, Nigel Brady, Ricky Lutton, John Afoa, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb, Ali Birch, Sean Doyle, Blane McIlroy, Niall O’Connor, Peter Nelson, Chris Cochrane.
Newcastle Falcons: Luke Fielden, Alex Tait, Suka Hufanga, Tane Tu’ipulotu, Tom Catterick; Jimmy Gopperth, Rory Lawson; Jonny Golding, Rob Vickers, Oliver Tomaszczyk, Carlo del Fava, James Hudson, Chris York, Will Welch (c), Ally Hogg. Replacements: Matt Thompson, Grant Shiells, James Hall, Scott MacLeod, Richard Mayhew, Chris Pilgrim, Waisea Luveniyali.
Kick Off 7.30pm, Tickets available at www.ulsterrugby.com or 02890493222
It certainly looks at this stage of the season that we have a more significant improvement in our strength in depth than I originally thought, however it is a big step up (and a bigger leap in the mindset), from a friendly game to a league match so it may be a tad premature to bask in the glory of (what appears to be) a rich vain of talent coming through.
While I am always one for giving youth their chance, it does look an inexperienced side at this stage of the season and Glasgow, in 8 days time will be looking at their trip to Ravenhill as a chance to cause an upset. However stick Brady and Afoa in the front row and perhaps Cave (if he’s not injured or being held back buy the IRFU after his 10 minute outing for Ireland) in the centre and it looks a different prospect.
Still the big talking point of this season will be the battle between Jackson and O’Connor. On last weeks game I would have O’Connor marginally ahead on points so it will be interesting to see how the combative Jackson responds. I am looking forward to seeing Jackson and Luke Marshall link up as I don’t think they were on the field at the same time last week.
Newcastle will provide a tough challenge under the stewardship of Dean Richards but, irrespective of the result I would like to see the young back line open up a bit more than they did in the game against Leicester.