Dan McFarland has announced his match day squad to travel to Edinburgh in search of a win which would leave Ulster in pole position to claim second spot in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14.

Jacob Stockdale starts in the 15 jersey for the first time since the away trip to Munster in 2016 while Iain Henderson returns to captain the side.

The front row remains unchanged from the away defeat against Glasgow with Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Marty Moore tasked with controlling Edinburgh’s scrum. Kieran Treadwell joins Iain Henderson in the engine room while McFarland reverts to the back row which fared so well against Leinster two weeks ago: Nick Timoney starts on the blindside with Jordi Murphy on the other flank and Marcell Coetzee at eight.

John Cooney and Billy Burns continue as Ulster’s half backs while Stuart McCloskey is deemed fit to feature after picking up a concussion last time out. He is partnered by Luke Marshall at outside centre. There’s a bit of a reshuffle in the back three to contend with the absences of Michael Lowry, Will Addison and Louis Ludik. Jacob Stockdale starts at fullback with Rob Lyttle moving to the left wing. Robert Baloucoune returns to the right wing and has the unenviable task of defending Duhan van der Merwe.

Ulster were disappointing last time out against Scottish rivals Glasgow and this was perhaps due to a ‘continental hangover’. Edinburgh are riding high off the back of a great comeback against the Scarlets in west Wales last Saturday afternoon and could have beaten Munster in the Heineken Cup quarter final the weekend before if their game management was better. Richard Cockerill has his eyes on that home quarter final in the domestic competition and will fancy their chances to overtake Ulster who sit three points ahead of the Scottish side.

Blair Kinghorn picked up a season ending injury in March but they’ve no shortage of flair in the backs. Duhan van der Merwe has beaten the most defenders in the league (61) and has made the second most number of breaks (23). Similarly Darcy Graham is a nippy runner and announced himself to the international stage in the Six Nations when he scored a brace in Scotland’s 31-point comeback against England. Simon Hickey was preferred to Jaco van der Walt at the start of the season but good form from the latter has seen him take over the playmaking duties.

It wouldn’t be a Cockerill side if they weren’t able to dominate sides with their forwards. The former Leicester Tigers coach has built a formidable pack including a fantastic back row in the form of John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Bill Mata. Barclay only made his first appearance of the season against Leinster three weeks ago but has hit the ground running, putting in a man of the match performance in their bonus point win over the Heineken Cup semi finalists. Although named on the bench tomorrow, Barclay will be sure to leave an impression upon his entry while his replacement, Magnus Bradbury is a quality player too.

Watson needs no introduction while Bill Mata is a great ball carrying option registering the most carries (260) in the PRO14 this season. He was also influential in Edinburgh’s European run, setting up a try against Toulon in the final round of group stage matches with this offload:

The FRU predicts: This has the making of a fantastic match as both sides go toe to toe for a home quarter final. Ulster’s destiny is still in their own hands and this side has made a habit of turning up for the big games. I think McFarland’s men might shock a few at Murrayfield this weekend. Ulster by eight.

Edinburgh Ulster
Darcy Graham 15 Jacob Stockdale
Damien Hoyland 14 Robert Baloucoune
Mark Bennett 13 Luke Marshall
Matt Scott 12 Stuart McCloskey
Duhan van der Merwe 11 Rob Lyttle
Jaco van der Walt 10 Billy Burns
Henry Pyrgos 9 John Cooney
Pierre Schoeman 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Stuart McInally 2 Rob Herring
WP Nel 3 Marty Moore
Ben Toolis 4 Iain Henderson
Grant Gilchrist 5 Kieran Treadwell
Magnus Bradbury 6 Nick Timoney
Hamish Watson 7 Jordi Murphy
Viliame Mata 8 Marcell Coetzee
Ross Ford 16 John Andrew
Allan Dell 17 Andy Warwick
Simon Berghan 18 Ross Kane
Callum Hunter-Hill 19 Alan O’Connor
John Barclay 20 Sean Reidy
Charlie Shiel 21 Dave Shanahan
Simon Hickey 22 Pete Nelson
George Taylor 23 Angus Kernohan

 

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