Ulster Rugby Head Coach Matt Williams has named his 22 man squad for Ulster’s Mangers League kick off against Llanelli Scarlets at home this Friday 5th September, KO 7.30pm.

Friday’s game will see Ulster start their Magners League campaign against their Heineken Cup pool challengers Llanelli Scarlets. The game will also be South African International BJ Botha’s, first start with new club Ulster, after training with the squad from Monday. Matt Williams has named one of his strongest squads for the game, with the hope of kicking Ulster’s Magners League campaign off in style.

Forwards: Justin Fitzpatrick; Nigel Brady; Tom Court; Rory Best; Brendon Botha; Carlo Del Fava; Ed O’Donoghue; Ryan Caldwell; David Pollock; Matt McCullough; Kieron Dawson; Robbie Diack.

Backs: Isaac Boss; Paddy Wallace; Timoci Nagusa; Rob Dewey; Darren Cave; Andrew Trimble; Clinton Schifcofske; Cillian Willis; Niall O’Connor; Bryn Cunningham.

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So the honeymoon is over – the league starts here. Ulster are playing a buoyant Skaalets who have been boosted by their pre-season form with good performances against Bath and Wasps. Fortunately, for Ulster, the talented Regan King and experienced Jon Davies are missing and Ulster will need to exploit the relatively inexperienced Gavin Evans and Rob Higgitt in the centre.

Reports from Llanelli indicate that their pack have been very competitive pre-season and, as normal, it is here where the game is going to be won or lost. To this end Williams has picked his most experienced set of forwards available.

The probable starting line up is.

1. Court, 2. Best, 3. Botha, 4. Del Fava, 5. O’Donoghue, 6. McCullough, 7. Dawson, 8. Diack.

9. Boss, 10. Wallace, 11. Nagusa, 12. Dewey, 13. Cave, 14. Trimble, 15.Schifcofske.

Bench. Fitzpatrick, Brady, Caldwell, Pollock, Willis, O’Connor, Cunningham.



South African tight head prop Brendon “BJ” Botha will make his first start for Ulster against the Llanelli Scarlets in the first game of Ulster’s 2008/09 Magners League campaign tomorrow night at Ravenhill, KO, 19.30

Botha who arrived with the squad last weekend has only trained with the side this week but Williams is confident that the powerful scrummager will be ready for the game,

“Brendon has been training with the Sharks for the last few weeks so I have no concerns over his fitness levels, he has impressed us all at training this week and I am delighted to name him in the side. It is important to hit the ground running and I feel we have picked a strong side for the first game.”

Williams continued, “We are ready for the Scarlets, I have mentioned this week in the media that we have had selection issues in that we have a great squad to choose from, that is something I am really pleased about.”

“Scarlets are a good side and have recruited well over the summer, they will be keen to lay down the law at Ravenhill as we meet them again in the Heineken Cup in December, but we are determined to get our season off to a good start and build that confidence in the team up”

Williams has made several changes from his side that were defeated by a strong Worcester team over a week ago at Ravenhill. The front row is transformed with Ulster legend Justin Fitzpatrick named at loose head, Ulster Captain Rory Best at hooker and new Ulster signing Botha at tight head.

In the second row Italian lock Carlo Del Fava partners new recruit Ed O’Donoghue, the back row sees Robbie Diack return at 8 with McCullough and Dawson named as the two flankers.

Isaac Boss and Paddy Wallace are named as the half back pairing with former Australia A player Clinton Schifcofske named at full back. Ireland star Andrew Trimble starts on the right wing with Fijian International Timoci Nagusa named on the left wing. The centre pairing of strong Scotsman Rob Dewey and speedy youngster Darren Cave will no doubt cause Scarlets problems.

Ulster Team

Ulster Team: (15-9) C Schifcofske; A Trimble, D Cave, R Dewey, T Nagusa; P Wallace, l Boss; (1-8) J Fitzpatrick; R Best(Capt), B Botha, C Del Fava, E O’Donoghue, M McCullough, K Dawson, R Diack

Replacements (16-22) N Brady, T Court, R Caldwell, D Pollock, C Willis, N O’Connor, B Cunningham

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It looks as though Williams has been doing his home work as he’s put out a pretty tidy set of forwards against what is rumoured to be a strong Llanelli pack.

Ulster may have struggled in the centre and personally I would much prefer to see Paddy there and O’Connor at out half. However with Llanelli fielding a relatively untested centre paring it is likely that both sets of backs will nullify each other.

I predict a close forward battle with Ulster winning by 5.

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