Jono Gibbes has made five changes to the Ulster side that require a bonus point win at Thomond Park tomorrow against Munster if they want a Guinness PRO14 play off spot. (KO 17:35).
Ulster also require Glasgow Warriors to deny Edinburgh a losing bonus point.
John Cooney is recovering from a concussion suffered in the win over Glasgow while Charles Piutau misses out due to family reasons.
In the forwards, Callum Black starts ahead of Andy Warwick and is joined in the front row by the returning Rory Best and Ross Kane. Rob Herring drops to the bench. Alan O’Connor partners Iain Henderson in the second row while an injury to Jean Deysel rules him out of a trip to his former club. Clive Ross replaces Deysel after an impressive cameo last time out. Nick Timoney moves to eight while Sean Reidy remains as Ulster’s openside.
Dave Shanahan replaces Cooney and will be supported by Johnny McPhillips at outhalf. The centre pairing remains unchanged as Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall accommodate those positions while Jacob Stockdale remains on the left wing. Louis Ludik switches to fullback due to the loss of Charles Piutau while Craig Gilroy returns from suspension to accommodate the right wing berth.
Munster have named a rotated squad with 14 changes made after their exit from Europe in Bordeaux on Sunday. Simon Zebo, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Andrew Conway, CJ Stander and Keith Earls are all left out. Still however, Darren Sweetnam provides pace on the left wing as does Calvin Nash who starts on the right wing. Sammy Arnold will be keen to make amends after he his red card at Kingspan Stadium in January.
After returning from Northampton Saints in the summer, JJ Hanrahan has been unable to nail down a regular first team spot at his home province. Coming off the bench against a rampant Racing 92, he struggled to control the game but did show intent on running the ball. His half back partner, Duncan Williams, also has his critics in the province.
It’s a toss up as to whether the loss of Piutau is bigger than Cooney however both will be felt. Nevertheless, Dave Shanahan has an opportunity to impress, while Johnny McPhillips has the chance to show the province that they do not need Joey Carbery or Ross Byrne. For Ulster to win this match, they need the edge against a physical Munster side at the breakdown who are often ferocious, if sometimes illegal.
Ultimately, if Ulster fail to make the play offs it will not be because of the failure to pick up the four tries tomorrow nor will it be the fault of Glasgow for not preventing Edinburgh from getting the losing bonus point. Too many poor results earlier in the season has left Ulster needing a snooker to make the play offs which would have been the minimum objective at the start of the season.
The FRU predicts: Ulster finally have mustered together a half decent run of form. The changes to Munster’s side will give Ulster optimism which has led some bookmakers to making Ulster favourites. I don’t believe they will score the required four tries however I do predict an Ulster victory. Ulster to win by two points.
|Stephen Fitzgerald||15||Louis Ludik|
|Calvin Nash||14||Craig Gilroy|
|Sam Arnold||13||Luke Marshall|
|Dan Groggin||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|Darren Sweetnam||11||Jacob Stockdale|
|JJ Hanrahan||10||Johnny McPhillips|
|Duncan Williams||9||David Shanahan|
|James Cronin||1||Callum Black|
|Mike Sherry||2||Rory Best|
|Brian Scott||3||Ross Kane|
|Gerbrandt Grober||4||Alan O’Connor|
|Darren O’Shea||5||Iain Henderson|
|Dave O’Callaghan||6||Clive Ross|
|Conor Oliver||7||Sean Reidy|
|Robin Copeland||8||Nick Timoney|
|Rhys Marshall||16||Rob Herring|
|Jeremy Loughman||17||Andrew Warwick|
|Stepehn Archer||18||Tom O’Toole|
|Jean Kleyn||19||Kieran Treadwell|
|Jack O’Donoghue||20||Chris Henry|
|James Hart||21||Paul Marshall|
|Bill Johnston||22||Angus Curtis|
|Shane Daly||23||Tommy Bowe|