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Magners Preview: Ulster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Magners Preview: Ulster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Defeat is simply not an option for Ulster tonight as they look to gain their first win of the league season against a Dragons side that has lost on their last 17 visits to Ireland in all competitions.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 19


Team News: Ulster coach Matt Williams has confirmed his starting line-up for Friday’s Magners League meeting with the Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill.

The Ulster team shows two changes from the starting side that was narrowly defeated by Cardiff at the Arms Park last Friday night.

Both Paddy Wallace and David Pollock are ruled out through injury so Rob Dewey takes Wallace’s place in the centre and Kieron Dawson returns in the back row.

Former Leicester out-half Ian Humphreys has been included on the replacements bench, alongside Italian international Carlo Del Fava.

Head coach Williams was bitterly disappointed with aspects of his side’s performance in Cardiff but the Australian has moved on from last week’s performance and is eyeing up a first win of the season.

“I know my team can win this game. We played some great rugby on Friday night in Cardiff and the players’ effort was spot on,” Williams said.

“If we can repeat that effort and style of rugby and control our penalty count then I am confident we can beat the Dragons.

“The Dragons will be nervous about coming to Ravenhill. They know how intimidating it can be to play at Ravenhill.

“But they will be sore from their defeat to Munster so we will be taking nothing for granted. We need this win and we are determined to get it.”

Meanwhile, for their second successive trip to Ireland, the Dragons management have made six changes in personnel to the team that lost heavily to Munster last Sunday.

Converted centre Phil Dollman will get his second outing of the season at full-back, as James Arlidge switches back to out-half and Shaun Connor drops out of the squad. Jason Tovey provides the out-half/full-back cover.

Other changes in the Welsh region’s back-line see Gareth Wyatt and Ashley Smith come in for Rhodri Gomer Davies and Tal Selley.

Up front, Adam Black will start in place of Hugh Gustafson in the front row, while there are two fresh flankers with Joe Bearman and Richard Parks stepping in for Dan Lydiate and Jamie Ringer.

Injuries have ruled out Marc Stcherbina, Andy Williams and Andrew Hall.

ULSTER: Clinton Schifcofske; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Rob Dewey, Timoci Nagusa; Niall O’Connor, lsaac Boss; Tom Court; Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Ryan Caldwell, Ed O’Donoghue, Matt McCullough, Kieron Dawson, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Justin Fitzpatrick, Carlo Del Fava, Thomas Anderson, Cillian Willis, Ian Humphreys, Bryn Cunningham.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Phil Dollman; Gareth Wyatt, Rory Sidey, Ashley Smith, Richard Fussell; James Arlidge, Wayne Evans; Adam Black, Tom Willis (capt), Rhys M Thomas, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Joe Bearman, Richard Parks, Grant Webb.

Replacements: Steve Jones, Hugh Gustafson, Adam Brown, Jamie Ringer, Rhodri Gomer Davies, Jason Tovey, Thomas Isaacs.

Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Eanna O’Dowd, Mark Gargan (both Ireland)

Say What: Andrew Trimble (Ulster) – “We had a pretty frustrating weekend, everyone was very disappointed about the Cardiff defeat and we were very hard on ourselves on Monday morning.

“And how we have handled this week is a sign of how we have matured as a squad. Maybe last season we would have come in on Monday morning and said, ‘guys we have done well, we got within a point of Cardiff.’

“But we are just sick of that really. We are fed up with coming in that we are doing alright, doing this well and let’s improve this.

“We have to learn to close out games. We are not happy just to produce big performances, we want to get results now.

“I remember a couple of years ago (when we won the league), when we never lost and always came through in tight games.

“It is a mindset thing, and a maturity thing and is something we have worked really hard on over the last couple of days to make sure we know exactly what we are doing when we get into certain areas on the pitch or certain situations in the game.

“When you take the Dragons through a few phases, they struggle and that is something we are going to look to do.”

Paul Turner (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “Ravenhill is always an exciting and vibrant place to play and the boys are looking forward to heading to Belfast this weekend.

“The manner in which we leaked points last weekend against Munster was disappointing and this has been addressed in preparation for yet another away trip.

“The team were buoyed by a superb first half performance against the Scarlets only last week and we need to concentrate on those positives going into this fixture.”

Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Ulster: Clinton Schifcofske 9; Dragons: James Arlidge 19; Tries: Ulster: BJ Botha, Isaac Boss 1 each; Dragons: Richard Fussell, Tom Willis, Lewis Evans 1 each.


Saturday, September 24, 2005 – Newport Gwent Dragons 19 Ulster 22, Rodney Parade
Saturday, March 25, 2006 – Ulster 24 Newport Gwent Dragons 17, Ravenhill
Saturday, September 9, 2006 – Newport Gwent Dragons 25 Ulster 32, Rodney Parade
Friday, February 16, 2007 – Ulster 14 Newport Gwent Dragons 7, Ravenhill
Saturday, October 6, 2007 – Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Ulster 11, Rodney Parade
Friday, February 15, 2008 – Ulster 38 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, Ravenhill


– Ulster have slipped to four successive league defeats with three of those games being played at Ravenhill

– Ulster have only once before lost four matches in-a-row in the league at their Belfast base – at the start of the 2004/05 campaign

– The Newport Gwent Dragons have begun the Magners League season with three straight reversals, and have not won on the road since an 18-16 victory over Glasgow at Firhill on January 4

– Head coach Paul Turner has never guided the Dragons to an away victory in Ireland

– The last three matches between the two sides have been won by the home team on the day. The Dragons’ only previous win at Ravenhill was a 28-21 success on October 8, 2004

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