The teams are up for tomorrow’s PRO12 and inter-provincial clash between Connacht and Ulster at the Sportsground, Galway, kick off 7:35 pm. Live on BBCNI.
Both teams have extensive injury lists and a week ago I’d have been confident of a substantial win for Ulster, but looking at the team lists below, in black and white, I’m now not so sure.
Ah, who am I kidding! it should still be a comfortable win for Ulster though I’m still not 100% convinced what way it will go in the all important front five.
In the front row we’ve two ex Ulster Academy props in Finlay Bealham and Conor Carey up against the ex Connacht prop Rodney Ah You and, probably the most underrated prop in Ireland, Callum Black. Ah You has been working hard on his fitness and has improved considerably in his last two outings and should be keen to make an impression on his old hunting ground and with Rory Best in the middle Ulster should edge the front row battle.
Second row is maybe a bit closer with Ulster having to draft in Robbie Diack following an injury to van der Merwe. However, Diack’s style is now something between a backrower and a ball carrying second row but he and Pete Brown may be just a little too similar in style so I hope both fully understand their roles for this one.
I expect Ulster to eventually wear down their opponents in the back row, irrespective of how driven the formidable John Muldoon will be. Ulster have just too much experience there and if Henderson hits his straps it could be a decidedly one sided battle.
As for the back line, well, it would need an extensive shift in form for Ulster not to come out on top there though O’Halloran, Adeolokun and Aki are all capable of causing problems.
There are also some interesting battle’s to come later in the game as the benches empty, ex Ulster stalwart Louis Stevenson against his direct replacement Kieran Treadwell being the most notable but the one I’m looking forward to the most is the scrap between replacement scrum halfs Stephen Kerins, who had an outstanding U20’s tournament, and David Shanahan, should they both make an appearance. Sparks could fly!
The FRU Predicts: We predict a win for Ulster, though it may not look like it for much of the game, with our boys pulling away in the closing quarter.
|Tiernan O’Halloran||15||Jared Payne|
|Niyi Adeolokun||14||Tommy Bowe|
|Bundee Aki||13||Louis Ludik|
|Craig Ronaldson||12||Darren Cave|
|Cian Kelleher||11||Craig Gilroy|
|Jack Carty||10||Paddy Jackson|
|Caolin Blade||9||Paul Marshall|
|Finlay Bealham||1||Callum Black|
|Dave Heffernan||2||Rory Best|
|Conor Carey||3||Rodney Ah You|
|Ultan Dillane||4||Robbie Diack|
|Andrew Browne||5||Pete Browne|
|Eoin McKeon||6||Ian Henderson|
|Jake Heenan||7||Clive Ross|
|John Muldoon||8||Roger Wilson|
|Shane Delahunt||16||Rob Herring|
|Ronan Loughney||17||Andrew Warwick|
|JP Cooney||18||Ross Kane|
|Lewis Stevenson||19||Kieran Treadwell|
|James Connolly||20||Sean Reidy|
|Stephen Kerins||21||David Shanahan|
|Shane O’Leary||22||Brett Herron|
|Stacey Ili||23||Rob Lyttle|