Back in Magners League action, Ulster will be hoping to maintain their run in the play-off zone when they entertain fellow high flyers Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill on Friday. But ill-timed injuries to Paddy Wallace and Stephen Ferris have robbed the province of two of their frontline players.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, December 4
ULSTER (4th) v GLASGOW WARRIORS (3rd), Ravenhill, 8pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named a strong starting line-up for Friday’s Magners League encounter with Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill.
Test-capped trio Tom Court, Timoci Nagusa and Simon Danielli, who replaces Andrew Trimble on the wing, all return to the Ulster side after the November international break.
Ian Whitten, who has captained the Ulster Ravens in recent weeks, will team up with Darren Cave in the centre, while Paddy Wallace undergoes treatment for an ankle injury sustained playing for Ireland last weekend.
In the front row, recent Ireland ‘A’ cap Andy Kyriacou replaces Nigel Brady at hooker, and Declan Fitzpatrick starts at tighthead prop, with BJ Botha recovering from the knee injury he picked up playing for South Africa against Ireland.
Dan Tuohy, another recent Ireland ‘A’ debutant, takes over from Ed O’Donoghue in the second row, and fit-again flanker David Pollock will make his first start for the Ulster senior team this season after returning from a rehab programme.
Lining out alongside stand-in captain Chris Henry, Pollock comes in for Stephen Ferris at blindside flanker, with Ferris sidelined by ankle injury sustained on international duty.
Meanwhile, Scotland flanker John Barclay is one of seven Warriors who saw action during the November internationals to be named in the Glasgow side to face Ulster.
Barclay will captain Glasgow on this occasion as Alastair Kellock is rested alongside number 8 Johnnie Beattie following their involvement in all three of Scotland’s recent Tests.
Scotland captain Chris Cusiter starts on the bench following three intense weeks with the Scotland squad, making way for Mark McMillan who will start at scrum half.
McMillan’s half-back partner, Dan Parks, continues to hone in on his 1,000th Magners League point – sitting just 25 points of the landmark total.
In total, Lineen has made five changes, one positional, to the team that drew 9-9 with the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium in their last game five weeks ago.
Colin Shaw, who is away on duty with the Scotland Sevens squad, is replaced by Selkirk and National Academy winger Alex Dunbar.
In the pack, former Ulster lock Tim Barker returns to the starting line-up in place of Kellock, meaning Richie Gray moves to the right hand side of the scrum.
With Beattie being rested, his flatmate and Scotland team-mate, Richie Vernon, will don the number 8 jersey. Vernon will pack down with Barclay and Kelly Brown who is set to make his 50th appearance for the club.
ULSTER: Clinton Schifcofske; Timoci Nagusa, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Tom Court, Andy Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick, Dan Tuohy, Ryan Caldwell, David Pollock, Willie Faloon, Chris Henry (capt).
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Ed O’Donoghue, Thomas Anderson, Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Jonny Shiels.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Bernardo Stortoni; Alex Dunbar, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans; Dan Parks, Mark McMillan; Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Tim Barker, Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, John Barclay (capt), Richie Vernon.
Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, Calum Forrester, Chris Cusiter, Colin Gregor, Peter Murchie.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Paul Haycock (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 4/9; Draw: 18/1; Glasgow Warriors to win: 7/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Brian McLaughlin (Ulster) – “The next five games are vital, we have no time to waste in getting our focus back and right.
“This week the aim has been getting everyone on the same page, to take us forward into phase 2 which is going to be very important for Ulster.
“Glasgow are certainly a strong team, they are level on points with us in the Magners League.
“They also had eight players in action for Scotland during the autumn internationals, and of course Scotland had that magnificent win over Australia.
“There can be no doubt that it is going to be a very tight game. Obviously their three key players are – the half-backs Dan Parks and Chris Cusiter, and also (Johnnie) Beattie at number 8. They have a very strong scrum as well. It is going to be an exceptionally tough game for us.
“The Ravenhill crowd, the supporters, they are just tremendous. Right from pre-season the whole way through they have given magnificent support.
“So, we are really looking forward to getting back to Ravenhill, after being away for over a month now. We need a big performance for the supporters and we need to build a solid platform for Stade (Francais) the following week.”
Sean Lineen (Glasgow Warriors) – “December is going to be a huge month for us, but we can’t afford to look too far ahead.
“Ravenhill is never an easy place to go and play. Ulster have won their last three home games and did the double over us last season.
“But this game is a bit like our first of the season against Munster in that we know what’s coming. It’s going to be a huge physical challenge.
“I’ve been really impressed with how the players not involved in the autumn Tests have trained under the guidance of our new head fitness and conditioning coach Stuart Yule. He’s worked wonders with the players that make up the backbone of our squad.
“It’s vital that we lay down a marker on Friday night which sets the tone for the coming weeks.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 70; Tries: Simon Danielli, Ian Humphreys, Timoci Nagusa, Andrew Trimble 2 each; Glasgow Warriors – Points: Dan Parks 86; Tries: Thom Evans 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, January 6, 2007 – Glasgow Warriors 8 Ulster 19, Hughenden
Friday, April 27, 2007 – Ulster 10 Glasgow Warriors 24, Ravenhill
Friday, November 2, 2007 – Glasgow Warriors 25 Ulster 6, Firhill Arena
Saturday, May 3, 2008 – Ulster 24 Glasgow Warriors 35, Ravenhill
Saturday, March 7, 2009 – Ulster 12 Glasgow Warriors 0, Ravenhill
Friday, April 17, 2009 – Glasgow Warriors 19 Ulster 20, Firhill Arena
– Ulster’s 24-10 defeat to Munster last time out ended their three-match winning run in the Magners League
– The Ulstermen have won their last three matches at Ravenhill since Edinburgh won there, 16-13, on September 18 last
– Glasgow Warriors’ only win in their last four encounters in all competitions was a 34-20 triumph at home to Connacht in the Magners League on October 23
– The Warriors have won their last three matches against Irish opponents
– Ulster did the Magners League double over Glasgow last season