Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy return from their injuries to start in Ulster’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Southern Kings while Johnny McPhillips is set to make his first start.
In the front row, Andy Warwick and Wiehahn Herbst start while John Andrew makes his first appearance since the trip to Galway in December. Alan O’Connor captains the side from second row and Kieran Treadwell joins him in the engine room. Matthew Rea starts at blindside flanker while Sean Reidy and Nick Timoney remain at 7 and 8 respectively.
Christian Lealiifano has returned to the Brumbies so Johnny McPhillips is called upon at outhalf and will partner John Cooney. Rob Lyttle earns a start on the left wing while Stuart McCloskey is partnered by the returning Luke Marshall. Charles Piutau occupies his familiar fullback jersey and Craig Gilroy has recovered form his eye injury to start on the right wing.
Jonny Stewart and Matthew Dalton have been recalled from Ireland U20s duty to the Ulster bench. They are joined by Rob Herring, Kyle McCall, Rodney Ah You, Chris Henry, Darren Cave and Louis Ludik.
A lot has happened since Ulster’s last game. Not only have Ulster had two weeks to mull over their European exit but they have also seen the exit of Director of Rugby, Les Kiss. It’s Jono Gibbes’ first match and he has picked an exciting side with a blend of youth and experience that should have enough to win the five match points.
Ulster won the first meeting between the sides in November but only after coming back from a poor start. They made too many individual errors and allowed Southern Kings to open a 12-0 lead after eight minutes. The momentum afforded to Southern Kings in the opening quarter allowed the hosts to go on and gain their first match points of the season.
Yaw Penxe starts on the right wing for the visitors and posed a few problems in the first match by scoring two tries. He is defensively vulnerable so I would like to see Ulster use the combination of Charles Piutau and Rob Lyttle to attack down the right wing. Luke Marshall makes a welcomed return having been out since late October. He’s been a big loss and he will help sure up what has been a leaking Ulster defence.
The crucial thing for Ulster tomorrow is if they open up a comfortable lead early on, they must turn the screw while maintaining a high level of discipline in defence. We have seen Ulster score 50 points against both Harlequins and Dragons this season, but allow the opposition to score 24 and 25 points respectively. This defensive issue is magnified by the fact that Ulster’s attacking threat has looked blunt since the turn of the year.
It’s important that Ulster deliver a performance in their first league match since the start of January and break a run of form which has seen them win only twice in the last five league matches.
The FRU predicts: Ulster should win this comfortably and run in a few tries in the process. Ulster dominated the lineout last time with John Andrew scoring a brace of tries and I expect him to add to his total. Ulster by 20 points with over four tries.
|Charles Piutau||15||Masixole Banda|
|Craig Gilroy||14||Yaw Penxe|
|Luke Marshall||13||Berton Klaasen|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Luzuko Vulindlu|
|Rob Lyttle||11||Anthonie Volmink|
|Johnny McPhillips||10||Martin Du Toit|
|John Cooney||9||Rowan Gouws|
|Andy Warwick||1||Schalk Ferreira|
|John Andrew||2||Michael Willemse (C)|
|Wiehahn Herbst||3||Pieter Scholtz|
|Alan O’Connor||4||Stephan Greeff|
|Kieran Treadwell||5||Bobby De Wee|
|Mathew Rea||6||Andisa Ntsila|
|Sean Reidy||7||Martinus Burger|
|Nick Timoney||8||Ruaan Lerm|
|Rob Herring||16||Stephan Coetzee|
|Kyle McCall||17||Johan Smith|
|Rodney Ah You||18||Dayan Van der Westhuizen|
|Matthew Dalton||19||Jurie Van Vuuren|
|Chris Henry||20||Eital Bredenkamp|
|Jonny Stewart||21||Godlen Masimla|
|Darren Cave||22||Barend Janse van Rensburg|
|Louis Ludik||23||Harlon Klaasen|