Stade Francais, one of just four teams left with a 100% record in this season’s Heineken Cup, are the next Pool 4 opponents for Ulster. Brian McLaughlin’s men beat Bath on the opening weekend but came unstuck away to Edinburgh and their quarter-final hopes hinge on Saturday’s showdown with the French giants at Ravenhill.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 4: Saturday, December 12
ULSTER (2nd) v STADE FRANCAIS (1st), Ravenhill, 1.35pm (live Sky Sports 2)
Team News: Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has made four changes – three of them in the forwards – for Saturday’s Heineken Cup Pool 4 tie with Stade Francais.
Ireland internationals Andrew Trimble and Stephen Ferris come back into the Ulster team, after missing last weekend’s Magners League loss to Glasgow Warriors.
Trimble replaces the injured Timoci Nagusa on the right wing, while Ferris returns from injury at number 6, with David Pollock moving to openside flanker and number 8 Chris Henry captaining his province once again.
The two other personnel changes made by McLaughlin see Nigel Brady starting ahead of Andy Kyriacou at hooker and Ed O’Donoghue gets the nod over Ryan Caldwell in the second row.
A knee injury has sidelined South African prop BJ Botha for this crucial clash, so Declan Fitzpatrick continues in the tighthead role.
Commenting on Saturday’s game, McLaughlin said: “We know how good Stade Francais are, we know they are a great side with great ambitions for the season. But we have the same ambitions.
“We have them here in Belfast on Saturday, and we have just got to get out onto the pitch and play. We have to out-play them by being accurate and smart, and taking the home advantage. We have to be fearless.”
Meanwhile, Stade Francais coach Jacques Delmas has made five changes to the team that secured a 34-10 win at home to Bayonne in the Top 14 Championship last weekend.
Ollie Phillips and Geoffroy Messina return in the back-line for Julien Arias and Guillaume Bousses who have dropped to the replacements bench.
Experienced prop Sylvain Marconnet comes in for David Attoub in the front row, while English duo Tom Palmer and James Haskell will both start in Belfast.
With Argentinian Juan Manuel Leguizamon not being risked after picking up an injury against Bayonne, Palmer joins Arnaud Marchois in Stade’s second row and Pascal Pape will anchor the visitors’ scrum at number 8.
Lionel Beauxis and former Leicester scrum half Julien Dupuy will pull the strings for Stade at half-back, with grizzled loosehead Rodrigo Roncero captaining the side in the injury enforced absence of Sergio Parisse.
ULSTER: Clinton Schifcofske; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Tom Court, Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Ed O’Donoghue, Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, David Pollock, Chris Henry (capt).
Replacements: Andy Kyriacou, Bryan Young, Justin Fitzpatrick, Ryan Caldwell, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Jamie Smith.
STADE FRANCAIS: Hugo Southwell; Ollie Phillips, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffroy Messina, Mark Gasnier; Lionel Beauxis, Julien Dupuy; Rodrigo Roncero (capt), Benjamin Kayser, Sylvain Marconnet, Arnaud Marchois, Tom Palmer, James Haskell, Antoine Burban, Pascal Pape.
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, David Attoub, Rabah Slimani, Pierre Rabadan, Mauro Bergamasco, Noel Oelschig, Guillaume Bousses, Julien Arias.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant Referees: David Rose, Alan Biggs (both England)
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 6/4; Draw: 20/1; Stade Francais to win: 8/15
Pre-Match Quotes: Jeremy Davidson (Ulster) – “I think it will be very important for us to give Stade a warm welcome up front, in the early exchanges, so that we can set our stall out, against what is essentially a very strong international team.
“If Stade get it right on the day, not only are they one of the best sides in France, they are one of the best in Europe.
“They are an exceptionally good team with world class players in every position. There is no room for errors in play or set pieces come Saturday.
“The French are very, very passionate about rugby, and French rugby teams historically have based their game around a big pack of forwards dominating and winning the ball, then out in the backs they have the French flair for throwing the ball around.
“Stade Francais exemplify this ethos to a tee, they play a real French style of rugby even though they have been coached by some foreign coaches over the past few years.
“They have also managed to keep a nucleus of French national players in their squad together with a number of top foreign internationals added for good measure.
“Their set piece is very dominant, their scrum, lineout, the maul and then out in the backs they are lucky to have a vast amount of talent to call upon, such as Lionel Beauxis at out-half, Julien Dupuy at scrum half and Mathieu Bastareaud, the big French centre. It is not surprising they have a tremendous running game.
“So, really it is a complete package you come up against whenever you are playing a team of this calibre from the French league.”
Julien Dupuy (Stade Francais) – “We will try to reach the quarter-finals – that is what we’ll concentrate on. But for the moment, we are happy. We are first in the pool and we’ve won our opening two games.
“We will just try to play well for the remaining games in our pool. We go to Ulster on Saturday and that will be a big challenge, it will certainly be hard to win there.
“After the first game against Edinburgh, we wanted to produce a big performance against Bath because we knew they are a very physical team”.
“It was a good win for us but it’s very difficult to think about reaching the final (in Paris) because there are a lot of big teams who want to get there as well.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Heineken Cup: Ulster: Points: Ian Humphreys 24; Tries: Timoci Nagusa 2; Stade Francais: Points: Julien Dupuy 29; Tries: Julien Arias, Lionel Beauxis, Ollie Phillips, Pascal Pape, Sergio Parisse 1 each
Current Form – Ulster – (Magners League): Lost 23-6 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 20-16 away to the Ospreys; Lost 16-13 at home to Edinburgh; Won 30-6 away to Connacht; Won 45-24 at home to the Scarlets; (Heineken Cup): Won 26-12 at home to Bath; Lost 17-13 away to Edinburgh; (Magners League): Won 16-14 at home to Leinster; Lost 24-10 away to Munster; Lost 25-13 at home to Glasgow Warriors
Stade Francais – (Top 14 Championship): Drew 22-22 away to Toulon; Lost 38-24 away to Bayonne; Won 43-26 at home to Montpellier; Won 40-35 at home to Montauban; Lost 30-22 away to Biarritz Olympique; Won 44-18 at home to Castres Olympique; Won 20-6 at home to Bourgoin; Drew 9-9 away to Toulouse; Won 44-16 at home to Brive; (Heineken Cup): Won 31-7 at home to Edinburgh; Won 29-27 away to Bath; (Top 14 Championship): Lost 20-14 at home to Perpignan; Drew 19-19 away to Clermont Auvergne; Won 23-18 at home to Albi; Lost 20-18 away to Metro Racing; Lost 22-18 at home to Toulon; Won 34-10 at home to Bayonne
Previous European Meetings: 9
Saturday, January 9, 1999 – Semi-Final – Ulster 33 Stade Francais 27, Ravenhill
Saturday, October 27, 2001 – Pool 2 – Stade Francais 40 Ulster 11, Stade Jean Bouin
Friday, November 2, 2001 – Pool 2 – Ulster 19 Stade Francais 16, Ravenhill
Friday, December 12, 2003 – Pool 1 – Ulster 22 Stade Francais 20, Ravenhill
Saturday, January 24, 2004 – Pool 1 – Stade Francais 13 Ulster 10, Stade Jean Bouin
Saturday, December 4, 2004 – Pool 6 – Stade Francais 30 Ulster 10, Stade Jean Bouin
Saturday, December 11, 2004 – Pool 6 – Ulster 18 Stade Francais 10, Ravenhill
Saturday, October 11, 2008 – Pool 4 – Ulster 10 Stade Francais 26, Ravenhill
Saturday, January 24, 2009 – Pool 4 – Stade Francais 24 Ulster 19, Stade Jean Bouin
Heineken Cup Records:
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
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
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool C
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool B
Stade Francais –
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2003/04: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
1999/00: Reached the quarter-finals
1998/99: Reached the semi-finals