Jono Gibbes has made four changes as Ulster welcome Edinburgh to the Kingspan Stadium in a crucial Guinness PRO14 match which kicks off at 19:35 tomorrow night.
David Busby will make his first appearance of the season if he comes off the bench while both Tommy Bowe and Jean Deysel are welcomed back from their injuries.
Rob Herring gets the nod ahead of John Andrew who drops to the bench while Andy Warwick and Wiehahn Herbst remain as Ulster’s props. Alan O’Connor captains the side and is joined in the second row once again by Kieran Treadwell. Nick Timoney moves to openside flanker to accommodate the returning Jean Deysel at 8 while Matthew Rea remains at blindside flanker.
The halfback pairing remain unchanged as John Cooney and Johnny McPhillips both start. Likewise last week’s centre pairing remain the same for only the fourth time this season. We saw Stuart McCloskey rival Craig Gilroy for the man-of-the-match award last week as he acted as an excellent dummy runner while also kept the ball alive with offloads. Louis Ludik replaces the injured Charles Piutau at fullback while Gilroy starts with Tommy Bowe on the wing.
Edinburgh sent Ulster a message ahead of this match with a bonus point victory at home against Leinster. The away side have 11 players involved with the national team over the Six Nations period but five players have been released for the match tomorrow night with Nathan Fowles and Magnus Bradbury starting as replacements with Mark Bennett, Cornell du Preez and Murray McCallum in the 15.
Both Fowles and Bennett played instrumental parts in their defeat of Leinster last week with the latter crossing in the 79th minute to win the game. Bennett is an elusive runner and has caused Ulster problems in the past during his time at Glasgow Warriors.
A positive for Ulster is the absence of Hamish Watson who has been a menace at the break down in previous meetings. The injury to Jason Tovey resulted in the recall of Duncan Weir from his loan at Worcester while Blair Kinghorn’s involvement with Scotland is another big loss.
Johnny McPhillips made his first start for Ulster against fairly poor opposition last week. While he showed excellent creativity and a sharp nose for the break last week, he faces stiffer opposition tomorrow night that won’t allow him to play with as much freedom as the Kings did. Ulster’s back row need to give McPhillips protection off defending set pieces as I am sure Richard Cockerill will look to exploit the 20-year-old’s inexperience.
With the sides neck-and-neck going into the final rounds of the league, bonus points will be crucial in determining the final make up of the league. While the main goal for a Richard Cockerill side is to win, a losing bonus point would be taken, especially as they welcome Ulster to Myreside at the start of April.
The FRU predicts: The Scottish side sit just three points behind Ulster in the table as both battle it out for the last Champions Cup spot. Ulster’s home form should be enough to get them across the line. Ulster by 6 points.
|Louis Ludik||15||Dougie Fife|
|Craig Gilroy||14||Jason Harries|
|Luke Marshall||13||Mark Bennett|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Chris Dean|
|Tommy Bowe||11||Duhan van der Merwe|
|Johnny McPhillips||10||Jaco van der Walt|
|John Cooney||9||Sam Hidalgo-Clyne|
|Andy Warwick||1||Jordan Lay|
|Rob Herring||2||Neil Cochrane|
|Wiehahn Herbst||3||Murray McCallum|
|Alan O’Connor||4||Fraser McKenzie|
|Kieran Treadwell||5||Lewis Carmichael|
|Matthew Rea||6||Bill Mata|
|Nick Timoney||7||John Hardie|
|Jean Deysel||8||Cornell du Preez|
|John Andrew||16||Cameron Fenton|
|Kyle McCall||17||Rory Sutherland|
|Rodney Ah You||18||Eliot Millar Mills|
|Matthew Dalton||19||Magnus Bradbury|
|Chris Henry||20||Luke Crosbie|
|Jonny Stewart||21||Nathan Fowles|
|Darren Cave||22||Duncan Weir|
|David Busby||23||Glenn Bryce|