It’s going to be a fairly low key opener at the new look Ravenhill on Friday night with Ulster and Leinster fielding two decidedly understrength sides. Payne and Williams are be the only real first team regulars in the starting Ulster side though Tuohy, Diack, Wilson and Marshall will add some undoubted talent from the bench if called upon to perform.
Leinster, on paper, offer less, with new signing Jimmy Gopperth the only player of note in their entire side. The likes of Reid, Boyle, Cooney and Ryan have performed well at age grade but still need to show at senior level and captain Rhys Ruddock seems to be going backwards after a meteoric start to his professional career.
It’s hard to say if the match will give us a realistic assessment of the young Ulster tyros, who should really put 30 points past this Leinster side. I suppose if they struggle we’ll have an indication that the likes of McKinney, Scholes, Farrell, and Nelson in the backs and and McCall, Annett and Doyle in the forwards aren’t as good as we were hoping but they really should win this one at a breeze if any of these players have any pretensions about being involved when we get to the business end of the season.
So, I’m expecting big games from Nelson, Farrell, and Annett and I’ll be hoping for a big game from the promising Kyle McCall. On top of that I’d like to see more from Sean Doyle than a high workrate and I think the “surprise” of the night may be Luke Marshall at outhalf at some stage with David McIlwaine coming in at centre!
Scholes had a good summer tour but he was a stand out in “talent lite” Ireland U20’s a team built on hard work rather than individuals and I think he has another year of honing his skills to get under his belt but I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. I’ll be interested to see the improvements of returnees Porter and McIlwaine should they get some game time, I’ve always rated both.
The game won’t be shown on live TV, so if you can’t make the match then check out the site on Saturday morning to find out who’s worth watching this season! !
Ulster: Peter Nelson, Rory Scholes, Jared Payne , Chris Farrell, Michael Allen, James McKinney, Michael Heaney, Kyle McCall, Niall Annett, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams. Replacements: Callum Black, Jonne Murphy, Branson Ross, Alan O’Connor, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Roger Wilson, Ian Porter, Chris Cochrane, Luke Marshall, David McIlwaine, Ricky Andrew.
Leinster: Darren Hudson, Darragh Fanning, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Andrew Boyle, Jimmy Gopperth, John Cooney, Jack O’Connell, Aaron Dundon, Martin Moore, Tadhg Beirne, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Leo Auva’a. Replacements From: James Tracy, Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, Tadhg Furlong, Ben Marshall, Jordi Murphy, Dan Leavy, Luke McGrath, Colm O’Shea, Adam Byrne, Thomas Daly, Billy Dardis, Thomas Farrell, Cathal Marsh