Ulster welcome the return of their international stars, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale for the decisive clash away to Harlequins on Sunday.
Henderson starts at blindside flanker and will lead the side out on Sunday. Stockdale starts in his familiar left wing position.
Les Kiss makes four changes to the pack that drew with Dragons in Rodney Parade last week. Callum Black starts at loosehead prop and joins Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row. Alan O’Connor and Kieran Treadwell are forming a very good partnership and are named in the second row and start together for the 7th time this season. Nick Timoney retains his 8 jersey at the base of the scrum after several good performances and is set to make his European debut. Timoney is joined by Henderson and Sean Reidy in the back row.
It’s a more familiar back line for Ulster. John Cooney starts at scrum half after being named as a replacement against the Dragons. Christian Lealiifano is Cooney’s partner at out-half. Stuart McCloskey and Tommy Bowe are retained in the centres. Charles Piutau occupies the 15 shirt with Stockdale on the left wing and Craig Gilroy on the right wing.
Ulster sit in third in Group A, a point behind Wasps and six behind leaders, La Rochelle. With the French side in pole position to top the group, they look almost infallible at home. Ideally, Wasps need to win both games with Ulster also winning both back-to-back matches to open up the group and give them a chance of qualifying. Our opposition sit bottom of the group with one point and, while they have a slim chance of progressing it does not look likely.
Harlequins have 18-year-old talent Marcus Smith starting at out-half with the influential Danny Care at scrum half with the English international inspiring Harlequins to a victory last week against Saracens. While Care is quick and will exploit any space around the fringes of the breakdown he also has great awareness. Two of the tries last week came from cross kicks from the number nine. Lions’ tourists Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler start while Chris Robshaw will test Ulster’s back row from open-side flanker.
It’s a pleasantly surprising line up for Ulster. I was expecting Alan O’Connor to be dropped to accommodate Iain Henderson and Nick Timoney to also drop out of the team despite good performances. O’Connor and Kieran Treadwell have been two of Ulster’s most consistent performances this season and, while the issue still stands, both have helped eased concerns about the lack of ball carriers in the pack. Similarly, Nick Timoney has stepped up as a major ball carrier for Ulster. Timoney has averaged 4.51m per carry for Ulster, more than any other Ulster forward that has made more than 40 carries.
The FRU predicts: Ulster need to prevent the Quins half back pairing controlling the game and can’t give them the space they gave Gavin Henson and Dan Babos last week. If they can do this Ulster should win.
|Mike Brown||15||Charles Piutau|
|Charlie Walker||14||Craig Gilroy|
|Alofa Alofa||13||Tommy Bowe|
|Jamie Roberts||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|Tim Visser||11||Jacob Stockdale|
|Marcus Smith||10||Christian Lealiifano|
|Danny Care||9||John Cooney|
|Joe Marler||1||Callum Black|
|Elia Elia||2||Rob Herring|
|Kyle Sinckler||3||Wiehahn Herbst|
|George Merrick||4||Alan O’Connor|
|Charlie Matthews||5||Kieran Treadwell|
|Renaldo Bothma||6||Iain Henderson|
|Chris Robshaw||7||Sean Reidy|
|Mat Luamanu||8||Nick Timoney|
|Dave Ward||16||John Andrew|
|Lewis Boyce||17||Andrew Warwick|
|Phil Swainston||18||Ross Kane|
|Dino Lamb||19||Matthew Rea|
|Archie White||20||Chris Henry|
|Iain Prior||21||Paul Marshall|
|Winston Stanley||22||Peter Nelson|
|Ross Chisholm||23||Louis Ludik|