Tyrone Howe, the last of Ulster’s Irish Squad contingent, must content himself with a place on the bench for Ulster’s juicy joust with the table-topping Ospreys.
Tyrone Howe, the last of Ulster’s Irish Squad contingent, must content himself with a place on the bench for Ulster’s juicy joust with the table-topping Ospreys on Saturday (5.15).
In choosing this approach, Mark McCall (mirroring Declan Kidney in Leinster) is sending out a strong signal to wingers Andrew Maxwell and Tommy Bowe, in particular, and to the team in general that good performances will be rewarded with loyalty. The hope is that the policy will be rewarded for McCall, as it has been with Kidney.
It is a strong-looking Ulster side and the occasion will mark the first opportunity for the Ravenhill crowd to see David Humphreys and Kevin Maggs this season. Both played well in last week’s away win over Connacht.
Maggs will team up in the centre with a rejuvenated Johnathan Bell, who took his try well last week.
Ulster appear to be still smarting from the home defeat to Leinster, and in an interview with the Irish Times, Mark McCall claims that he’s “thrilled we’re playing a team like the Ospreys, rather than someone the boys mightn’t be as switched on for.”
McCall maintains that Ulster have improved their lineout considerably, “Our lineout has been much better so far than last year. That was our Achilles’ heel last season but the boys and Clarkey have worked hard in the video room and the training ground, and on Saturday, we won 16 out of 19 lineouts against Connacht in awful conditions. So that’s been pleasing.”
Certainly, they will need to keep up that level of performance if they are to down The Ospreys, who have gotten off to a flier (sorry!).
They have obliterated the three teams they have played (Munster 34-17; Llanelli 23-6; Cardiff 39-3) scoring an average of 32 points in each of those games. Gavin Henson’s average points per match is 17, so clearly the outhalf will have to be pressurised and penalties kept to a minimum.
However, one senses that Ulster are not in the mood to be turned over twice in a row at Fortress Ravenhill.
ULSTER: 15 – Bryn Cunningham; 14 – Tommy Bowe; 13 – Jonny Bell; 12 – Kevin Maggs; 11 – Andrew Maxwell; 10 – David Humphreys; 9 – Neil Doak; 1 – Simon Best; 2 – Paul Shields; 3 – Rod Moore; 4 – Matt Mustchin; 5 – Matt McCullough; 6 – Andy Ward (Captain); 7 – Neil Best; 8 – Roger Wilson
Replacements: 16 – Nigel Brady; 17 – Ronan McCormack; 18 – Rowan Frost; 19 – Campbell Feather; 20 – Kieran Campbell; 21 – Paddy Wallace; 22 – Tyrone Howe.
For those that can’t make it to Ravenhill, the match is being screened live by Setanta Sports.