Ulster travel to Italy this weekend to play Magners League newcomers Aironi Rugby, and head coach Brian McLaughlin has named an extended squad for the game.
Aironi Rugby made their Magners League debut last weekend with a daunting trip to Munster, but the Italian side were no pushovers and forced Munster to work hard for their 33-17 win.
When asked what Ulster were expecting, head coach Brian McLaughlin commented: “This is Aironi’s first home game in the Magners League so basically we’re expecting World War Three. They will be very aggressive and physical, the played exceptionally well against Munster last weekend.”
McLaughlin highlighted out-half Ludovic Mercier and lock and former Italy captain Marco Bortolami as key danger men.
“They have a good pack that is very well directed by (Ludovic) Mercier. They have signed very well, key for them is (Marco) Bortolami in the lineout.”
The Ulster squad named for the match does not include Ireland duo Rory Best and Stephen Ferris.
Hooker Best picked up some soft tissue irritation to his neck in Ulster’s opening win over the Ospreys, and is rested along with Ferris, a try scorer from flanker last Friday, as part of the IRFU’s player management programme.
South African BJ Botha returned to Belfast following the Tri Nations campaign earlier this week. The prop will commence training again with the squad tomorrow and consequently was not considered for selection.
Full-back Jamie Smith is fit to play having recovered from an eye injury sustained in the recent friendly against Bath, while back rower Chris Henry, who toured with Ireland this summer, has also been included in the squad.
Following the hard-fought 27-26 defeat of the Ospreys, McLaughlin is keen for his side to follow up on that display.
“We had a great performance on Friday against the Ospreys, lots of pride and passion but we have to build on that and go to Italy to get something,” he added.
The Ulster starting line-up and replacements will be announced on Friday afternoon.
ULSTER Squad (v Aironi Rugby) – Backs (13): Adam D’Arcy, David McIlwaine, Nevin Spence, Tommy Seymour, Jonny Shiels, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Paddy Wallace, Ian Humphreys, Niall O’Connor, Ian Porter, Paul Marshall, Jamie Smith.
Forwards (16): Tom Court, Paddy McAllister, Bryan Young, Declan Fitzpatrick, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb, Nigel Brady, Andi Kyriacou, Johann Muller, Tim Barker, Chris Henry, Ryan Caldwell, Willie Faloon, Thomas Anderson, Robbie Diack, Pedrie Wannenburg.