Les Kiss has made two changes for the second half of the European Rugby Champions Cup double header against Harlequins.
Louis Ludik comes in for Tommy Bowe at outside centre who picked up an injury in the match last week while Chris Henry replaces Sean Reidy who is named among the replacements. Andrew Trimble takes Ludik’s vacated spot on the replacement’s bench.
Callum Black, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst are the front row and all played very well last week up against Joe Marler, Elia Elia and Kyle Sinckler. Kieran Treadwell are partners in the second row for the fourth time in a row while Iain Henderson continues at blindside flanker. Henry joins Henderson and Nick Timoney in the back row.
John Cooney continues at scrum half after his man of the match performance at the Stoop and is joined by Christian Lealiifano at out half. Louis Ludik starts at outside centre with Stuart McCloskey inside. It’s the same pacey back three retained with Craig Gilroy, Jacob Stockdale and Charles Piutau all starting.
By head coach, John Kingston’s own admission, Harlequins are out of the competition and he has taken the liberty to make changes. Both Danny Care and Chris Robshaw picked up head injuries in the clash last week and are not selected. Mike Brown, Mat Luamanu and Tim Visser drop to the bench while Joe Marler is left out altogether, but influential ten Marcus Smith keeps his place.
Ulster need to back up the great performance with another win and preferably a bonus point. In the other match in the group La Rochelle scored six tries in their 49-29 dismantling of Wasps in the Stade Marcel-Deflandre, but the away side also picked up five tries. Wasps sit two points behind Ulster so a bonus point win would be ideal. As it stands, Ulster would miss out on qualifying as a runner up as Saracens and Bath have 10 and 9 points respectively, while Exeter, who are level on points with Ulster have a better points difference.
While Harlequins will be hurting, I hope Ulster go after Harlequins early. We saw what an early try did against the Dragons who were evidently arriving at Kingspan Stadium to fulfill the fixture. Dragons are not as good as Harlequins however an early score may see the heads drop, making Ulster’s task easier in the long run.
The most important aspect of tonight’s match is that we see the forward pack continue their form. Kiss is rightly selecting Timoney at 8, while Rob Herring is beginning to show the form that got him called up to the Irish panel for the Autumn Internationals. Ulster have got talented forwards in their ranks and as we have seen with Ross Kane and Timoney, giving them substantial minutes on the pitch will aid their development and improve Ulster as a province in the long run.
The FRU predicts: Harlequins have made changes as they look to prioritize other competitions. Ulster are good enough to get the win and I suspect a bonus point could be on the cards. Ulster by 15 points.
|Charles Piutau||15||Ross Chisholm|
|Craig Gilroy||14||Charlie Walker|
|Louis Ludik||13||Winston Stanley|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Jamie Roberts|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||Alofa Alofa|
|Christian Lealiifano||10||Marcus Smith|
|John Cooney||9||Ian Prior|
|Calum Black||1||Lewis Boyce|
|Rob Herring||2||Elia Elia|
|Wiehahn Herbst||3||Kyle Sinckler|
|Alan O’Connor||4||George Merrick|
|Kieran Treadwell||5||Charlie Matthews|
|Ian Henderson||6||Archie White|
|Chris Henry||7||Dave Ward|
|Nick Timoney||8||Renaldo Bothma|
|John Andrew||16||Charlie Piper|
|Andrew Warwick||17||Mark Lambert|
|Ross Kane||18||Phil Swainston|
|Matthew Rea||19||Mat Luamanu|
|Sean Reidy||20||Dino Lamb|
|Paul Marshall||21||James Lang|
|Peter Nelson||22||Tim Visser|
|Andrew Trimble||23||Mike Brown|