Munster will take their unbeaten record this season, which now runs to seven competitive games, to Ravenhill on Saturday. Their hosts Ulster beat the men in red 19-9 on their last visit to Belfast but current form points to a different result this time around.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, October 25
ULSTER v MUNSTER, Ravenhill, 7.35pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/Setanta Sports 2)
Team News: Powerful back rower Stephen Ferris has been named in the Ulster team for Saturday’s Magners League tussle with their provincial rivals Munster at Ravenhill.
Ferris, who has been plagued with injury this season, returns to the Ulster side at the expense of Ballymena man Matt McCullough who drops out of the matchday squad.
Ed O’Donoghue starts in the second row ahead of Italian international Carlo Del Fava who has been listed amongst the replacements.
Dungannon clubman Thomas Anderson is a notable inclusion on the province’s bench, proudly following in the footsteps of his father, former Ulster and Ireland player Willie Anderson.
Rory Best will captain Ulster and start despite not being named in the extended squad earlier this week.
The back-line remains unchanged from the side that played Harlequins last weekend.
Former Ulster Academy star Mark McCrea is named on the bench for the first time this season – the speedy winger will be hoping for a run-out against a top Munster side.
Main Stand tickets have now sold out for Ulster’s first Interprovincial Magners League game of the season.
Promenade and Terrace tickets are still available for the much-anticipated clash and tickets are still currently available for the YellowTom stand. The temporary stand is based at the Memorial arch side of the pitch and is a seated, covered stand.
Tickets will be available on the gate from 6pm or if you want to pre buy your tickets you can do so by visiting the Ulster Rugby website.
Ulster v Munster tickets are also available via Ulster Rugby Ticket outlets across the province.
Meanwhile, second row Mick O’Driscoll will lead Munster on Saturday evening when the Magners League leaders resume their domestic campaign against Ulster.
O’Driscoll captains a side that shows several changes from the one that started against Sale Sharks last time out.
Coach Tony McGahan has omitted players, like Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell, who have been involved in almost all of Munster’s games to date.
ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; Timoci Nagusa, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble; Niall O’Connor, Cillian Willis; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Ed O’Donoghue, Ryan Caldwell, Stephen Ferris, David Pollock, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Tom Court, Carlo Del Fava, Thomas Anderson, Isaac Boss, Ian Humphreys, Mark McCrea.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Anthony Horgan, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Federico Pucciariello, Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, John O’Sullivan, Justin Melck.
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Darragh Hurley, Mark Melbourne, James Coughlan, Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Manning, Kieran Lewis.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Keane, Dudley Phillips (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: John Carvill (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 13/8; Draw: 25/1; Munster to win: 1/2
Say What: Rory Best (Ulster) – “Munster are a great side and have such strength and depth right across the board.
“And a big difference between them and us at the minute is that they have gone seven from seven in competitive games this season, so they will be coming up to Ravenhill full of confidence.
“But whenever you play the other provinces they are always tight affairs. Each team knows each other very well and if you look back at the Connacht-Leinster game.
“The quality that Leinster had compared to Connacht yet Connacht still won. And that is the sort of thing that can happen in these Interpro games.
“We will be looking at Munster this week and we really have to get that elusive 80-minute performance. We have picked up the intensity that we are playing with but we are still slipping in and out of games and giving teams chances.
“Especially in the last two weeks, we have been up against good teams that have taken every chance and this week will be no exception.”
Tony McGahan (Munster) – “This season we have maintained an open squad policy but besides that, the likes of Ronan (O’Gara) has played in six of our last seven games.
“He was a replacement in the other game, Keith (Earls) the same. Paul (O’Connell) and Doug (Howlett) have played seven straight, John (Hayes) the last five games and we’re only in month two of a nine-month season.
“So there’s a very good reason for maintaining the size of squad we have. We can’t expect the same guys to play all the time.
“There are no more formidable places to go than Ravenhill and we fully recognise that. Ulster are a tough, robust side.
“But we have full confidence in our squad, in their ability to put their best foot forward to defend the good form we’ve shown up to now.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Ulster: Clinton Schifcofske 21; Munster: Ronan O’Gara 36; Tries: Ulster: Isaac Boss, BJ Botha, Kieron Dawson, Ian Humphreys 1 each; Munster: Keith Earls, Doug Howlett 4 each.
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, December 3, 2005 – Munster 17 Ulster 20, Musgrave Park
Friday, March 3, 2006 – Ulster 27 Munster 3, Ravenhill
Saturday, September 30, 2006 – Munster 21 Ulster 13, Musgrave Park
Friday, March 23, 2007 – Ulster 21 Munster 24, Ravenhill
Saturday, March 22, 2008 – Munster 42 Ulster 6, Musgrave Park
Wednesday, April 30, 2008 – Ulster 19 Munster 9, Ravenhill
– Ulster’s 13-9 victory at home to Edinburgh in the last round of Magners League matches an unwanted run of six successive Magners League defeats. The Ulstermen have won their last two clashes with their fellow Irish provinces
– Munster’s perfect start to the season continued with a pair of victories in the Heineken Cup over the past two weekends
– The men in red have now won their last nine games in all competitions, while their last away defeat came at Ravenhill in April
– Ulster won the last time the teams met, to end a three-match losing streak for the Ulstermen against Munster