Recent signing Ruan Pienaar will be an interested spectator at Ravenhill on Friday as Ulster look to overcome Edinburgh and continue their impressive start to the new season.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 17
ULSTER (2nd) v EDINBURGH (11th), Ravenhill, 8.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/RTE 2/BBC ALBA)
Team News: Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has selected his starting line-up for Friday’s Magners League showdown with Edinburgh.
There are four changes to the Ulster back-line from the one which was on duty for last weekend’s win over Aironi Rugby.
The fit-again Jamie Smith replaces Adam D’Arcy at full-back, and USA international Paul Emerick and Ireland’s Andrew Trimble, who returns from a finger injury, replace Tommy Seymour and David McIlwaine on the wings.
Ian Whitten partners Darren Cave in the province’s midfield, replacing Paddy Wallace who is rested as part of the IRFU’s player management programme.
Up front, a leg injury to Declan Fitzpatrick means there is a positional change as Tom Court switches to the loosehead berth and Bryan Young is drafted into the front row, while Andi Kyriacou is named at hooker.
Johann Muller, the team’s captain, will be partnered again by Tim Barker in the second row, while the only change to the back row is the inclusion of Stephen Ferris, who was rested last weekend. Pedrie Wannenburg drops to the replacements bench.
Ulster’s bench has been reinforced with the return of regular skipper Rory Best and BJ Botha who is back from Tri Nations duty with South Africa.
Previewing the clash, McLaughlin said: “Edinburgh pose a different threat this week. They’re a different rugby playing side to the two we’ve faced already.
“Aironi and the Ospreys are very, very direct and very physical. Edinburgh are very physical around the breakdown area, no doubt about that, so you have to be on your mettle in there.
“If you show any weakness or any lack of trust in the guy beside you it can prove devastating for you.
“You’ve always got to be aware of the threat posed by (Chris) Paterson. He has been a thorn in the side of many teams for years.
“He’s very accurate so you just can’t afford, in and around that box from the try-line to the ten-metre line, to give away penalties because to do that is to give them three points.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat has confirmed his team for their Magners League trip to Belfast.
The starting line-up shows two changes from last weekend’s defeat to Munster. Craig Hamilton will pack down in the second row in place of Esteban Lozada, who has resumed light training after receiving a blow to the head in last Friday’s game.
Roddy Grant returns to the back row, and will captain the side.
Standing by to make his Edinburgh debut at Ravenhill is versatile forward Dave Denton, who has been named among the replacements.
The Scotland Under-20 international said: “I’m delighted to be involved and will be doing everything I can to make the most of the opportunity if I do get on.
“I’ve loved every minute of life with Edinburgh since I joined up in the summer and have been working hard to repay the faith the coaches have shown in me.”
ULSTER: Jamie Smith; Paul Emerick, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Andrew Trimble; Niall O’Connor, Paul Marshall; Bryan Young, Andi Kyriacou, Tom Court, Johann Muller (capt), Ryan Caldwell, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Rory Best, Paddy McAllister, BJ Botha, Tim Barker, Pedrie Wannenburg, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, David McIlwaine.
EDINBURGH: Chris Paterson; Mark Robertson, Ben Cairns, Alex Grove, Tim Visser; Phil Godman, Mike Blair; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Craig Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Roddy Grant (capt), Netani Talei.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Kyle Traynor, Jack Gilding, Stuart McInally, Dave Denton, Greig Laidlaw, David Blair, John Houston.
Referee: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Assistant Referees: David Keane, John Carvill (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 1/3; Draw: 22/1; Edinburgh to win: 9/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Paul Marshall (Ulster) – “It’s great to have come away with wins in the past two matches, both of which have been pretty physical.
“Maybe it wasn’t quite as pretty as we would have liked, but sometimes it’s about winning ugly rather than playing well and losing.
“Edinburgh have lost a couple of games but they are a great side. We’ve got to make sure we’re on the mark and that we don’t take our eye off the ball.
“If we do then given some of the players they’ve got they will punish us.
“The great thing is that we have genuine strength in depth, which maybe hasn’t always been the case.
“Last week, for example, we were without Rory (Best) but we were able to bring in Nigel (Brady) and Andi (Kyriacou) and both of them did a great job.
“I think it provides proof we’re moving forward that when we have to take the likes of Rory or Stevie (Ferris) out, we’re able to replace them.
“Obviously it’s great when we have those guys, but the fact that we don’t miss them as much as we used to shows we’re making progress as a squad.”
Rob Moffat (Edinburgh) – “We go to Ravenhill with a strong side and in the knowledge that we’re more than capable of winning there.
“There’s been a good edge to training this week and a real determination to give a more complete performance than we have in the first two matches.
“It’s good to have Roddy (Grant) back in harness, and also to be able to call on an experienced campaigner like Craig Hamilton in the second row.
“We’re all delighted that Esteban (Lozada) is making good progress, but the pairing we have this week have played together on many occasions and complement each other well.
“We’e looking forward to the game and can’t wait for it to come.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Ulster – Points: Niall O’Connor 34; Tries: Stephen Ferris, Darren Cave, Robbie Diack 1 each; Edinburgh – Points: Chris Paterson 21; Tries: Tim Visser 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, September 28, 2007 – Edinburgh 24 Ulster 10, Murrayfield
Friday, November 30, 2007 – Ulster 14 Edinburgh 20, Ravenhill
Friday, October 3, 2008 – Ulster 13 Edinburgh 9, Ravenhill
Friday, January 9, 2009 – Edinburgh 21 Ulster 15, Murrayfield
Friday, September 18, 2009 – Ulster 13 Edinburgh 16, Ravenhill
Sunday, April 25, 2010 – Edinburgh 25 Ulster 37, Murrayfield
– Ulster have won their last four games in the Magners League and are bidding to start a season with three straight victories for the first time since they went on to become champions in the 2005/06 campaign
– Ulster failed to beat a Scottish side in the Magners League at Ravenhill last season
– Edinburgh’s run of six straight defeats is their worst ever sequence in Magners League history
– The Scottish outfit’s only away win in almost exactly 12 months was a 17-16 triumph at the Scarlets last December
– Both encounters between Ulster and Edinburgh in the Magners League last season were won by the away side, while Edinburgh have won on two of their last three visits to Ravenhill in the league