Eight changes have been made as Ulster prepare for the first of two inter-provincial matches before attention turns to Europe.
Academy players Michael Lowry and James Hume are in line to make their first competitive Ulster appearances off the bench while Angus Curtis and Adam McBurney are set to make their first starts at inside centre and hooker respectively.
Andrew Warwick, McBurney and Ross Kane form a new front row with Warwick making his 100th appearance in an Ulster jersey. This season I’ve noticed the former Ballymena Academy man take on ball carrying responsibility which has given Ulster another point to their attack and we wish him well as reaches the milestone. Alan O’Connor captains the side at lock and his partnered with Iain Henderson. After a good cameo last week, Jean Deysel makes his first start of the season at eight while Matthew Rea and Nick Timoney are named on the flanks of the scrum.
In the back line John Cooney and Craig GIlroy return to the starting lineup after missing the Cheetahs game last week. Billy Burns continues as Ulster’s 10 while Curtis links up with Darren Cave in the centre. Gilroy’s return is the only change to the back three as he replaces the injured Henry Speight. Peter Nelson and Angus Kernohan continue at full back and wing.
Munster suffered a heavy defeat in Cardiff last weekend, a match where they scored no points in the second half. With the likes of Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander featuring, they struggled to gain any parity at the breakdown against a well drilled Cardiff side. Whereas Ulster are undefeated, the Cardiff loss represents one of two defeats for the southern province this season with the other being another hammering against Glasgow. Other than that it has been fairly plain sailing last year’s semi finalists nilling the Cheetahs and easily dispatching a rotated Ospreys side.
While it’s easier to make a list of players that are fit for Ulster, Munster have their own injury concerns with Conor Murray out for the foreseeable future. Alby Mathewson gets a start in Murray’s absence having moved to the province as a medical joker. They are still packed with talent though with Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne and Peter O’Mahony all starting. Ulster’s failure to protect their own ball in recent matches is a major concern, particularly when you have world class poachers in Beirne and O’Mahony on the pitch.
The FRU predicts: Ulster haven’t won in Thomond Park since 2014 and I can’t see their fortunes changing tomorrow. Munster are beatable however I think Ulster will have to settle for a losing bonus point.
|Mike Haley||15||Peter Nelson|
|Andrew Conway||14||Craig Gilroy|
|Dan Goggin||13||Darren Cave|
|Rory Scannell||12||Angus Curtis|
|Keith Earls||11||Angus Kernohan|
|Joey Carbery||10||Billy Burns|
|Alby Mathewson||9||John Cooney|
|Dave Kilcoyne||1||Andrew Warwick|
|Niall Scannell||2||Adam McBurney|
|Stephen Archer||3||Ross Kane|
|Tadhg Beirne||4||Alan O’Connor ©|
|Billy Holland||5||Iain Henderson|
|Peter O’Mahony ©||6||Matthew Rea|
|Tommy O’Donnell||7||Nick Timoney|
|CJ Stander||8||Jean Deysel|
|Kevin O’Byrne||16||John Andrew|
|James Cronin||17||Eric O’Sullivan|
|Ciaran Parker||18||Tom O’Toole|
|Jean Kleyn||19||Kieran Treadwell|
|Arno Botha||20||Clive Ross|
|Duncan Williams||21||Dave Shanahan|
|Ian Keatley||22||Michael Lowry|
|Sam Arnold||23||James Hume|