10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Gloucester's infamous Shed at their home ground of Kingsholm is known for its rare brand of hospitality' that it affords to visiting teams. As Munster have found out in recent seasons, the fans there make any game an intimidating fixture.
Mark McCall's Ulster side travel there this weekend with a much needed win under their belt. The young Ulster side certainly upped the level of performance that had seen them lose three games on the spin to beat Cardiff in Ravenhill, with David Humphreys putting in a man of the match performance to score all of Ulster's points.
In fairness to Ulster, they have been playing well but have been unable to put away teams, allowing lapses in concentration at certain stages to let the opposition back into the game. The ability to put teams away comes with experience and with such a young side, this will come in time. The performance against Cardiff suggests that it may be sooner then later.
After taking a 12-3 lead into half time, only to see this pegged back by Cardiff into a 16-15 deficit, Ulster showed great composure to come back and edge the Welsh side out 21-16. The pressure will be even greater in Kingsholm, but the win over Cardiff will have given the squad a huge boost.
For such an arduous trip away to Gloucester, McCall has looked to his experienced squad members and has made four changes and one positional change from the side that beat Cardiff.
Neil Doak returns to the starting line-up, swapping his place on the bench with Kieran Campbell. Roger Wilson, who played 10 minutes last week, returns to the team and will be looking for a big performance to convince Irish Coach Eddie O'Sullivan that he is worth one of the places left open in his Autumn International squad. Rod Moore also returns to the team, which sees Simon Best move back to the loose-head prop position. The injured Jonny Bell is ruled out through injury, so Adam Larkin takes his spot in the replacements.
Gloucester were impressive in their opening day defeat to Stade Francais and will certainly offer a stiffer test for Ulster then Cardiff did. They currently lie in third place of the English Premiership and had seven representatives named on English Coach Any Robinson's autumn test squad. One piece of possible good news is that Gloucester's influential back rower Jake Boer may miss the game due injury.
Ulster coach McCall knows that this is a vital game and although not many people outside the Ulster camp may give them a chance, the team are quite rightly traveling there with the expectancy of delivering a performance to win. McCall believes this could be a defining point in their season, We're confident we can win our last three pool games, Cardiff away, Stade Francais and Gloucester at home but if we want to top the group we'll need to win one of the next two games - we're going to Gloucester to win."
Ulster: 15 - Bryn Cunningham; 14 - Tommy Bowe; 13 - Kevin Maggs; 12 - Paul Steinmetz; 11 - Tyrone Howe; 10 - David Humphreys; 9 - Neil Doak; 1 - Simon Best; 2 - Nigel Brady; 3 - Rod Moore; 4 - Gary Longwell; 5 - Matt McCullough; 6 - Andy Ward; 7 - Neil Best; 8 - Roger Wilson Replacements: 16 - Paul Shields; 17 - Ronan McCormack; 18 - Rowan Frost; 19 - Campbell Feather; 20 - Kieran Campbell; 21 - Paddy Wallace; 22 - Adam Larkin.