The teams have been announced for Sunday’s re-arranged European Champions Cup match between Oyonnax and Ulster. The match kicks off in Stade Charles-Mathon at 1:00pm GMT, live on Sky Sports.
There are eight changes to the panel from the defeat against Munster with Craig Gilroy, Sam Arnold, Ian Humphreys and Paul Marshall all starting in the back line. Up front sees the inclusion of Ricky Lutton at tighthead and Roger Wilson at No. 8. Sean Reidy and, the magnificently named, Bronson Ross join the bench.
On he face of it, it’s not the strongest team available but Kiss has his eye on the bigger picture and this is exactly the sort of game that this sort of team has to win if Ulster are to ever get rid of their plucky loser tag when they get to the business end of the season.
I’m particularly pleased to see Sam Arnold get a start, especially in a week were the southern press has gone into overdrive over Garry Ringrose at Leinester. Now Ringrose is a fine young player with plenty of potential but it was Arnold who carried the Irish midfield, and Ringrose, through a rather disappointing U20’s World Championship last June and in my book the Ulster youngster has a better all round game.
Given Ulster’s riches in midfield Arnold has been re-learning his trade on the wing and I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on in a back three that has “senior statesman” Craig Gilroy at full back and the feisty Rory Scholes on the opposite wing. Certainly plenty of go forward there!
With Humphreys and Paul Marshall at half-back the team has all the ingredients of a back-line that will want to attack and if the big boys give it a good mix up front then Ulster could rack up a big score. My only concern is that defence may fall flat through lack of familiarity in the back three and, if Oyonnax decide to turn up the heat, Ulster might find themselves over cooked and burnt round he edges!
I do have concerns about our strength in second row, with Lewis Stevenson a touch off form the last time out, and with no obvious replacement on the bench, Robbie Diack being bumped into the second row the likely preference, it does leave us somewhat underpowered in the boiler room if Van der Merwe gets a knock.
The big bonus, of course is that the French have nothing to play for in Europe and are currently sitting one off the bottom in the Top 14. Their survival in their home league must be their number one priority and with the players spending most of the last, cancelled, match-day drinking with the Ulster supporters it’s hard to see how they will get motivated for this one.
The FRU Predicts. There will be a bit of huffing and puffing from Oyonaax in the first quarter but Ulster should start to pull clear midway through the first half in a high scoring win.
|Q Etienne||15||Craig Gilroy|
|D Codjo||14||Sam Arnold|
|A Taufa||13||Luke Marshall|
|E Sheridan||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|U Tawolo||11||Rory Scholes|
|N Robinson||10||Ian Humphreys|
|J Blanc||9||Paul Marshall|
|L Delboulbes||8||Kyle McCall|
|J Maurouard||7||Rory Best|
|M Clerc||6||Ricky Lutton|
|G Robinson||5||Lewis Stevenson|
|F Metz||4||Franco vd Merwe|
|P Gunther||3||Robbie Diack|
|M Fa’asavalu||2||Chris Henry|
|P Wannenburg||1||Roger Wilson|
|T Bordes||16||Rob Herring|
|S Wright||17||Callum Black|
|H Pungea||18||Bronson Ross|
|L Power||19||Nick Williams|
|V Maafu||20||Sean Reidy|
|A Aziza||21||Ruan Pienaar|
|R Clegg||22||Paddy Jackson|
|D Ikpefan||23||Louis Ludik|