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Magners Preview: Ulster v Connacht

Magners Preview: Ulster v Connacht

In tonight’s battle of the Magners League’s bottom two sides, Connacht will be aiming for their first win in Belfast in over 47 years while Ulster are bidding to get back to winning ways after recent defeats to Munster and the Ospreys.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 11

ULSTER v CONNACHT, Ravenhill, 6.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)

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Team News: Ulster coach Matt Williams has named his starting side to take on Connacht at Ravenhill on Friday night.

Justin Fitzpatrick and Carlo Del Fava are the only two changes to the starting line-up with Bryan Young and Ryan Caldwell named on the replacements bench.

Commenting on Del Fava’s selection, Williams said: “It is great to have Carlo back, he had a great Six Nations and is a talented big physical guy.

“With Ryan Caldwell’s fiancee giving birth to their daughter Ella this week, we decided to have him on the bench and I have no doubt he will make a big impact when he comes onto the pitch.”

Williams continued: “It is good to have Justin Fitzpatrick back in the team, he is full of experience and we will need it in this game.”

There are no changes in the back-line with Williams adding: “We have kept the back-line the same for this game. We have had an eye on this fixture over the last few games and the combinations are working well in the backs.”

Meanwhile, Connacht have named an unchanged team for their trip to Belfast.

Michael Bradley has stuck with the same side which lost out narrowly to Munster at the Sportsground two weeks ago, as Connacht look to get back to winning ways ahead of their final match on the road this season, against the Dragons the following week.

Galwegians prop Ronan Loughney is the only change to the matchday 22, as he takes his place amongst the replacements.

The following players were not considered by the Connacht management due to injury: Tim Donnelly (shoulder), John Hearty (hip), John Lyne (hand), Ray Ofisa (arm), Conor O’Loughlin (shoulder), Michael Swift (kidney) and Aidan Wynne (hamstring).

ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace, Mark Bartholomeusz; Niall O’Connor, Isaac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best (capt), Tom Court, Justin Harrison, Carlo Del Fava, Matt McCullough, Kieron Dawson, Stephen Ferris.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Ryan Caldwell, Neil Best, Paul Marshall, Rob Dewey, Mark McCrea.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Matt Mostyn, Mel Deane, Keith Matthews, Danny Riordan; Andrew Dunne, Conor McPhillips; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, David Gannon, Andrew Farley (capt), John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: John Fogarty, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Liam Casserly, Robbie Shaw, Troy Nathan, Darren Yapp.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Touch Judges: Alan Rogan and John Carvill (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Eanna O’Dowd (Ireland)

Say What: Tommy Bowe (Ulster) – “When I first broke into the team, Ulster never lost at home. I would go into a changing room on a Friday night and we had so much craic because we knew the team in the other changing room was worried even before kick-off.

“It is frustrating to see the young players come into the squad who don’t know what it was like to have ‘fortress Ravenhill’ and it is tough on me to know I am part of the team that has lost that.

“Matt has targeted the home games and the senior players want to get it back, bring out the crowds, adapt to the conditions and get the results.

“The interpros are the biggest games bar the Heineken Cup that you want to play for Ulster. When we come together for Ireland in Dublin, there is always good camaradie but there is no love lost between anyone.

“Connacht maybe always feel they get the wrong end of the stick and will be coming up here wanting to give it there all.

“This game and the Munster game are the two games I am really looking forward to. Hopefully we’ll get great crowds for both.”

Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “We have looked at our last match against Ulster, and it was the first match we lost at home this season.

“We were winning that match a quarter of the way through the second half and Ulster began to dominate the breakdown. It was the first game of the season where we lost the breakdown battle.

“Physicality is one of the key issues for us going into the game, especially at Ravenhill where they’ll have 12,500 people roaring them on.

“The business we’re in is about creating chances and then taking them/ At home we had chances against the other provinces to win those games, but we didn’t take them.

“If we had, we could have been going into this game having won or drawn all our home provincial matches – that’s the difference between winning and losing those games.

“The same philosophy applies when you go away from home, but the difference is that the home side will get the 50-50 decisions, so we have to be that bit better than Ulster and in the recent past we haven’t been.”

Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Ulster: Niall O’Connor 44; Connacht: Tim Donnelly 82; Tries: Ulster: Tommy Bowe, Simon Danielli, Isaac Boss, Kieron Dawson 2 each; Connacht: Robbie Morris, Conor O’Loughlin, Danny Riordan 2 each.


Saturday, November 8, 2003 – Connacht 31 Ulster 20, The Sportsground
Friday, April 16, 2004 – Ulster 42 Connacht 27, The Sportsground
Saturday, September 18, 2004 – Connacht 13 Ulster 19, The Sportsground
Saturday, January 1, 2005 – Ulster 23 Connacht 14, Ravenhill
Friday, October 7, 2005 – Ulster 36 Connacht 10, Ravenhill
Saturday, December 31, 2005 – Connacht 22 Ulster 12, The Sportsground
Friday, October 6, 2006 – Connacht 17 Ulster 24, The Sportsground
Tuesday, December 26, 2006 – Ulster 20 Connacht 10, Ravenhill
Friday, November 23, 2007 – Connacht 13 Ulster 30, The Sportsground


– Ulster have lost their last two games in the Magners League – away to Munster and the Ospreys. But at Ravenhill Ulster have won their last three matches in all competitions

– Connacht have lost their last four Magners League games and have not won away from home in the competition since a 29-15 victory at the now defunct Border Reivers on September 1, 2006

– Connacht’s only win in their last 25 encounters against their fellow Irish provinces was 22-12 at home to Ulster on New Year’s Eve 2005

– Connacht have not won in Belfast since a 6-3 victory on November 16, 1960