The teams have been announced for Ulster’s opening European Cup fixture, against Bordeaux Begles, which takes place on Sunday afternoon in Stade Chaban-Delmas, kick off 1:00pm UK/IRE. 

The disappointing news for Ulster is that, star player, Charles Piutau (concussion) is not available for this one but having said that it’s still a useful looking side, and, as always, this is going to be won or lost up front anyway so Charles was only ever going to decide by how many! 🙂 

With that in mind, I’m be more concerned about the absence of Callum Black, Ireland’s most underrated prop, but Andy Warwick and replacement Kyle McCall should be able to do a job and, looking at the pack as a whole, I’m particularly pleased to see the return of Franco vd Merwe who adds that all important stabilising influence in both the tight and the loose. 

It’ll be another step in the continuing re-development of Rodney Ah You, who seems to have taken to the Ulster set up like a duck to water. He has improved considerably, fitter and more mobile, over the last few weeks but all of the pack will need to be at the top of their game and fueled with a bit more desire than they showed against Connacht if they are to take this one. 

Controlled scrums and lineouts and nice sharp rucks are the keys to this game, like any other really, and their organisation at the rucks was a disappointment last time out but I suspect that quite a few of the heads were on this match and I’d be very disappointed if they couldn’t raise their game a notch for their opening fixture in the premier European competition. 

The pick of the back line battles are Gilroy v Ashley-Cooper and, of course, Jackson v Madigan and I suspect all four are relishing the challenge and all will be backing themselves. However I think the Ulster pair need that big game that little bit more, for a variety of reasons. Jackson will want to build on his summer form and continue to keep clear water between himself and Madigan, in their challenge for the Ireland squad, and Gilly will want to see himself considered in Ashley-Cooper’s league and generally the bigger the challenge the better Gilroy plays; this could be one of his special games! 

The FRU Predicts. For no discernable reason, well not one that I can put my finger on, I really fancy Ulster for this one and I see them coming away with a comfortable win in an open game. I think we’d all settle for that! #SUFTUM

BORDEAUX   ULSTER
Jean-Marcellin Buttin 15 Jared Payne
Adam Ashley-Cooper 14 Andrew Trimble
Jean-Baptiste Dubié 13 Luke Marshall
Romain Lonca 12 Stuart Olding
Blair Connor 11 Craig Gilroy
Ian Madigan 10 Paddy Jackson
Yann Lesgourgues 9 Ruan Pienaar
Jefferson Poirot 1 Andy Warwick
Clement Maynadier 2 Rory Best
Vadim Cobilas 3 Rodney Ah You
Jandré Marais (capt) 4 Alan O’Connor
Cyril Cazeaux 5 Franco vd Merwe
Luke Jones 6 Iain Henderson
Hugh Chalmers 7 Clive Ross
Loann Goujon 8 Sean Reidy
     
Ole Avei 16 Rob Herring
Sébastien Taofifenua 17 Kyle McCall
Marc Clerc 18 Ross Kane
Tom Palmer 19 Pete Browne
Marco Tauleigne 20 Roger Wilson
Baptiste Serin 21 Paul Marshall
Lionel Beauxis 22 Jacob Stockdale
Metuisela Talebulamaijaina 23 Rob Lyttle

#SUFTUM