Jono Gibbes’ side to face runaway winners of Conference A, Glasgow Warriors, faces a number of familiar faces that will begin to say their goodbyes to the Kingspan crowd which will hopefully culminate in a Champions Cup play off victory next month.
After 206 appearances, Paul Marshall announced his intentions to retire yesterday afternoon while Tommy Bowe announced his retirement earlier in the year. Charles Piutau concludes a two-year stint as he heads across the Irish Sea to Bristol Bears.
Marshall and Bowe start on the replacements bench tomorrow while Piutau is named at fullback. While two of our favourite players are ending their careers, Angus Curtis is at the start of his and will debut if he comes off the bench tomorrow evening.
In the forwards, Rory Best starts on the bench with Rob Herring taking his position at hooker. Andrew Warwick and Ross Kane start as props. Alan O’Connor returns to the second row alongside Iain Henderson while Matthew Rea’s injury forces the only change in the back row. Nick Timoney takes his position at blindside flanker with Jean Deysel at 8 and Sean Reidy at openside.
There’s only one change in the backline as Luke Marshall replaces Darren Cave at outside centre. John Cooney and Johnny McPhillips start as half backs while Stuart McCloskey partners Marshall in the centre. Ulster’s back three coughed up a lot of chances last week but showed that they can get into try scoring positions. Piutau is joined by Jacob Stockdale on the left wing and Louis Ludik on the right wing. I fancy them to have more success this week
Glasgow sealed their direct passage to the semi finals with a comprehensive 35-22 victory over Connacht at Scotstoun last week. They have been dominant in Conference A and this was marked with a ten match win streak in the PRO14, losing their first game of the domestic season in December against Edinburgh. Since then they have lost a match in Limerick as well as a drubbing in Parc-y-Scarlets.
Europe has not been as kind to them as the PRO14, as they crashed out in the group stage, losing five out of the six matches in the process including a 55-19 hammering to Leinster in the RDS.
They have named a strong side featuring Scottish internationals Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones and Finn Russell in the back line and Fraser Brown, Tim Swinson and Callum Gibbins in the forward pack. Luke Marshall will face a tough test against Jones who ran England ragged during the Six Nations while Russell will thrive on the conditions benefitting running rugby.
The replacements bench also places a major part in determining the outcome of rugby matches. Nick Grigg, Peter Horne and Henry Pyrgos all have the ability to swing the game in the favour of the visitors.
In recent weeks Ulster have shown they can play an attractive style of rugby. Unfortunately they did not convert as many chances as they would have liked to against the Ospreys but with the weather expected to be sunny, I expect Ulster to attack this quality side from the off and treat the supporters to a fantastic game of rugby.
The FRU predicts: With the weather predicted to be perfect and both sides capable of playing attacking rugby, I can see both sides coming away with a try bonus point. Ulster to put another dismal week off the pitch behind them and record a close victory.
|Charles Piutau||15||Stuart Hogg|
|Louis Ludik||14||Tommy Seymour|
|Luke Marshall||13||Huw Jones|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Alex Dunbar|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||Lelia Masaga|
|Johnny McPhillips||10||Finn Russell|
|John Cooney||9||Ali Price|
|Andrew Warwick||1||Alex Allan|
|Rob Herring||2||Fraser Brown|
|Ross Kane||3||Siua Halanukonuka|
|Alan O’Connor||4||Scott Cummings|
|Iain Henderson||5||Tim Swinson|
|Nick Timoney||6||Rob Harley|
|Sean Reidy||7||Callum Gibbins|
|Jean Deysel||8||Matt Fagerson|
|Rory Best||16||George Turner|
|Kyle McCall||17||Ryan Grant|
|Tom O’Toole||18||Zander Fagerson|
|Kieran Treadwell||19||Greg Peterson|
|Clive Ross||20||Matt Smith|
|Paul Marshall||21||Henry Prygos|
|Angus Curtis||22||Peter Horne|
|Tommy Bowe||23||Nick Grigg|