Ulster Rugby make ten changes as they welcome Dragons to Kingspan Stadium for round four of the 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 season.
Nick Timoney is set to make his competitive debut as he lines up at No.8 while Iain Henderson is welcomed back to the squad after his exploits in New Zealand during the summer’s British and Irish Lions Tour.
In the front row, Kyle McCall and Rob Herring retain their jerseys while Wiehahn Herbst drops out for Rodney Ah You who wins his first start of the season. Robbie Diack returns to the second row to partner Alan O’Connor who also featured against the Scarlets. In the back row Chris Henry captains the side from openside flanker while Nick Timoney replaces Sean Reidy and Clive Ross occupies the six jersey after an impressive cameo against the Scarlets.
It’s a new half back combination as Paul Marshall replaces John Cooney and Pete Nelson replaces Christian Lealiifano in the backs. Stuart McCloskey makes it four starts in a row and is partnered by Darren Cave in the centre. Jacob Stockdale continues on the left wing and is joined by Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau in the back three.
While I want to see Ulster win, I’m also hopeful to see some of the incoming players perform well and stake a claim for game time in upcoming matches. Pete Nelson has a chance to show Les Kiss that he should be Ulster’s out half when Christian Lealiifano returns to Australia in the new year. Once Ulster’s regular outside centre, Darren Cave has only played 12 minutes of rugby since his last start in March and now has his chance to offer some competition to Luke Marshall for the thirteen jersey.
Ollie Griffiths is the only player to retain his jersey for the Dragons and captains the side from flanker. Griffiths picked up his first international cap for Wales in their summer tour of Samoa and Tonga. Pat Howard, Dragons inside centre, may be known to Irish rugby fans as he enjoyed a stint as injury cover at Munster. Howard won his first Munster start against Ulster in 2014-15 PRO12 season. Dragons are fresh from a comprehensive 21-8 victory over Connacht last week which was their first win in eight months.
FRU predicts: Both sides have heavily rotated and tomorrow’s match will likely be a disjointed and therefore frustrating evening for the Ulstermen. However, Ulster have the quality to not only win, but win with a bonus point against the Dragons.
|ULSTER RUGBY||DRAGONS RUGBY|
|Charles Piutau||15||Carl Mayer|
|Tommy Bowe||14||Adam Hughes|
|Darren Cave||13||Thretton Palamo|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Pat Howard|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||George Gasson|
|Peter Nelson||10||Dorian Jones|
|Paul Marshall||9||Owain Leonard|
|Kyle McCall||1||Thomas Davies|
|Rob Herring||2||Gerard Ellis|
|Rodney Ah You||3||Lloyd Fairbrother|
|Robbie Diack||4||Matthew Screech|
|Alan O’Connor||5||Rynard Landman|
|Clive Ross||6||Max Williams|
|Chris Henry ©||7||Ollie Griffiths ©|
|Nick Timoney||8||Robinson Blake|
|John Andrew||16||Rhys Buckley|
|Andrew Warwick||17||Phil Price|
|Wiehahn Herbst||18||Brok Harris|
|Iain Henderson||19||Joe Davis|
|Matthew Rea||20||Lennon Greggains|
|David Shanahan||21||Dane Blacker|
|Brett Herron||22||Angus O’Brien|
|Rob Lyttle||23||Will Talbot-Davies|