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Heineken Cup Preview: Harlequins v Ulster

Heineken Cup Preview: Harlequins v Ulster

All week Matt Williams and his Ulster players have spoken of the necessity for the province to go up through the gears in order to shock Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop. So can Ulster claim their first ever Heineken Cup win on English soil?

HEINEKEN CUP – POOL 4: Saturday, October 18

HARLEQUINS v ULSTER, Twickenham Stoop, 3pm

Team News: Ulster coach Matt Williams has named his team to take on Harlequins in Heineken Cup Pool 4 at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

There are four changes in personnel to the Ulster team that was beaten 26-10 last Saturday by Stade Francais.

Italian lock Carlo Del Fava slots back into the starting line-up in favour of Ed O’Donoghue, who drops to the replacements bench.

David Pollock dons the number 7 jersey, while former Ireland flanker Kieron Dawson is rested for this match.

A knee injury has got the better of Clinton Schifcofske, who is replaced in the side by another new Southern Hemisphere signing, Timoci Nagusa.

Meanwhile, back rower Stephen Ferris will start after recovering fully from the rib injury he sustained against Stade.

In the backs, Cillian Willis has been preferred to Isaac Boss at scrum half, while Ulster-born talents Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave team up in midfield once again.

Commenting on the challenge his side will face against the Londoners, Williams said: “If we play with the same intensity and effort we achieved on Saturday against Stade, then tomorrow’s game will be very interesting.

“The boys are ready to have a good crack at ‘Quins. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain, which is a good position to be in.

“Our physical commitment against Stade was great, but I would like to see the intensity of our overall game move up a notch or two against ‘Quins.

“They are a dangerous counter-attacking team, particularly with pace on the wings. But we should be able to counter them and I honestly believe we will be there or thereabouts.

“Our biggest challenge is breaking this away game hoodoo. It’s now up to the players in the Ulster squad to provide the enthusiasm and energy to produce the victory. You never know what will happen after that.”

Meanwhile, Harlequins boss Dean Richards has largely kept faith with the team that started last weekend’s impressive 29-22 win at the Scarlets.

The front five remains the same, with Tani Fuga, Mark Lambert and George Robson offering cover. Former Cork Constitution prop Mike Ross, who is an Ireland ‘A’ international, will start at tighthead prop.

England international Nick Easter returns at number 8, with Tom Guest dropping to the bench.

Amongst the backs, Charlie Amesbury moves to the left wing and Ugo Monye slots in at outside centre to cover the injured Gonzalo Tiesi.

Tom Williams is fit to start on the right wing, with Tosh Masson providing back-up on the replacements bench.

HARLEQUINS: Mike Brown; Tom Williams, Ugo Monye, Jordan Turner-Hall, Charlie Amesbury; Chris Malone, Danny Care; Ceri Jones, Gary Botha, Mike Ross, Ollie Kohn, Jim Evans, Chris Robshaw, Will Skinner (capt), Nick Easter.

Replacements: Tani Fuga, Mark Lambert, George Robson, Tom Guest, Andy Gomarsall, Tosh Masson, Waisea Luveniyali.

ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; Timoci Nagusa, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble; Niall O’Connor, Cillian Willis; Tom Court, Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Carlo Del Fava, Ryan Caldwell, Stephen Ferris, David Pollock, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Justin Fitzpatrick, Ed O’Donoghue, Matt McCullough, Isaac Boss, Ian Humphreys, Rob Dewey.

Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Bodily, Alan Jenkins (both Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Harlequins to win: 1/12; Draw: 33/1; Ulster to win: 6/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Bryn Cunningham (Ulster) – “Obviously we were very disappointed to lose (against Stade Francais), especially at Ravenhill in the first round of the Heineken Cup.

“We really wanted to get off to a good start in the tournament so naturally we were disappointed.

“However, we took positives from the game, we had upped our levels from the previous games and that shows that we are improving.

“Harlequins have a strong back row and a great out-half who dictates the game through his kicking or running.

“They have great pace throughout the team and a couple of excellent finishers so, all in all, they are a top side.

“They are sitting fourth in the Guinness Premiership so we will have to up our game from Stade to be in with a chance.”

Dean Richards (Harlequins) – “The Heineken Cup is the best club competition in the world, pitching the best teams together – there are no easy games.

“We couldn’t have opened our Heineken Cup campaign last weekend against Scarlets in a better fashion.

“The side showed great belief in one another to come back from being 19-3 down at half-time, to take the lead and the victory in the second half.

“That was our first victory in this prestigious competition since the 2001/02 season, and we intend to continue this good run of form.

“The team is maturing week by week and playing a more ambitious style of rugby.

“Last weekend we showed that we were not prepared to lie down and die when faced with stiff opposition.

“It was great getting the win, but on Saturday at the Stoop we will have to back this up. To lose this week will mean that last week’s efforts will count for nothing in the grand scheme of things.

“Ulster are a quality side, steeped in history, with a number of players who will no doubt challenge us in all areas of our game.

“Although the results haven’t gone their way recently, they are a side that are capable of upsetting our chances of progressing in this competition.”

Heineken Cup Top Scorers – Harlequins: Points: Chris Malone 19; Tries: Ugo Monye, Danny Care 1 each; Ulster: Points: Paddy Wallace, Niall O’Connor 5 each; Tries: Paddy Wallace 1

Current Form – Harlequins (Guinness Premiership): Won 24-21 away to Saracens; Won 31-13 at home to Bristol; Lost 24-20 away to Gloucester; Lost 28-27 at home to London Irish; Won 30-23 away to Worcester Warriors; (EDF Energy Cup): Lost 24-23 away to the Ospreys; (Heineken Cup): Won 29-22 away to the Scarlets

Ulster (Magners League): Lost 16-9 at home to the Scarlets; Lost 16-15 away to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 16-14 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 43-0 away to the Ospreys; Won 13-9 at home to Edinburgh; (Heineken Cup): Lost 26-10 at home to Stade Francais

Previous European Meetings: 1

Wednesday, October 16, 1996 – Pool C – Ulster 15 Harlequins 21, Ravenhill

Heineken Cup Records:

Harlequins –
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
1997/98: Reached the quarter-finals
1996/97: Reached the quarter-finals

Ulster –
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1998/99: Champions
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool C
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool B

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Harlequins to win by less than 7 points