Ulster are boosted by the return of Jacob Stockdale and Louis Ludik to the starting lineup as they attempt to book a place in the PRO14 final with a win over Glasgow Warriors tomorrow for the first time since 2013.
Stockdale is named at fullback while Ludik starts on the wing in the only selection issue which will surprise anyone.
Rory Best will lead from the front alongside Eric O’Sullivan and Ross Kane while a second row pairing of Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell will hope to fare better against Glasgow compared to last month’s match. It’s the same back row that faced Connacht in the quarter final; Nick Timoney starts on the blindside while Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee start at openside and number eight respectively.
John Cooney and Billy Burns form the half back partnership with Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall in the centres. Robert Baloucoune starts on the right wing with Ludik on the left wing and Stockdale at fullback. It’s a strong backline and one that will cause damage if the forwards keep up their good form and deliver quick ball at the ruck.
After performing so well against Edinburgh at fullback, Ulster’s young protégé gets the nod in the 15 jersey. During that match Stockdale struck fear into the Edinburgh backline any time he got the ball. While it’s a big call due to the magnitude of the match it will also allow the former Wallace schoolboy to have more influence on the match by not restricting him to the left wing.
Ulster’s last outing at Scotstoun was a forgettable experience as they struggled to fire a shot with the home side running out comfortable 30-7 winners. I suspect there was a bit of a European hangover on Alex Goode proportions from the Leinster match the week previous. The set piece severely malfunctioned with Ulster losing seven lineouts and a reversing scrum prevented Cooney from delivering quick ball to the backs.
Jonny Gray had a field day but with the inclusion of Iain Henderson he’ll not have it all his way. The lineout wasn’t great against Connacht with ball going astray on four occasions so I’m sure this is an area of the game where Glasgow hope to have the upper hand, particularly as Scott Cummings topped last season’s charts for lineout steals. Elsewhere in the forwards Callum Gibbons is a great openside while Matt Fagerson is an excellent ball carrier.
Glasgow’s back three is lightning quick and it could be argued that they’re one of the best attacking triumvirates in European rugby. It’ll be Hogg’s last home match as a Glasgow player before he joins Exeter Chiefs ahead of next season. However in the centres they have two supremely talented operators in the form of Kyle Steyn and Sam Johnson. Dependable in defence and flash in attack their battle with McCloskey and Marshall will be fascinating, particularly as the Ulstermen have a point to prove after last month’s meeting.
The FRU predicts: Both of these sides are in a rich vein of form and deserve to be in the semi finals. I think Dan McFarland will have something up his sleeves for Ulster ahead of tomorrow and it could be crucial in determining the outcome of this match. However, I have to side with the hosts who are aiming to win the league for a second time.
|Stuart Hogg||15||Jacob Stockdale|
|Tommy Seymour||14||Robert Baloucoune|
|Kyle Steyn||13||Luke Marshall|
|Sam Johnston||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|DTH van der Merwe||11||Louis Ludik|
|Adam Hastings||10||Billy Burns|
|Ali Price||9||John Cooney|
|Jamie Bhatti||1||Eric O’Sullivan|
|Fraser Brown||2||Rory Best|
|Zander Fagerson||3||Ross Kane|
|Scott Cummings||4||Iain Henderson|
|Jonny Gray||5||Kieran Treadwell|
|Rob Harley||6||Nick Timoney|
|Callum Gibbins||7||Jordi Murphy|
|Matt Fagerson||8||Marcell Coetzee|
|Grant Stewart||16||Rob Herring|
|Oli Kebble||17||Andy Warwick|
|D’Arcy Rae||18||Tom O’Toole|
|Ryan Wilson||19||Alan O’Connor|
|Tom Gordon||20||Sean Reidy|
|George Horne||21||Dave Shanahan|
|Pete Horne||22||Michael Lowry|
|Huw Jones||23||Darren Cave|