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Ulster Unchanged For Clermont Encounter

Ulster Unchanged For Clermont Encounter

Head coach Brian McLaughlin has named an unchanged team for Ulster’s opening Heineken Cup Pool 4 match against Clermont Auvergne at Ravenhill on Saturday (kick-off 3.40pm).

Captain Johann Muller and Ireland players Tom Court and Stephen Ferris have all shaken off injuries picked up during last weekend’s 22-3 derby win over Connacht.

There are two changes among the replacements with Declan Fitzpatrick returning from injury in place of Adam Macklin and Willie Faloon coming in for Robbie Diack.

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New signing John Afoa will make his Heineken Cup debut just a week after making his first appearance for Ulster.

The Rugby World Cup-winning prop is surrounded by experience up front, with all eight forwards having been capped at international level.

With Ruan Pienaar currently injured, Paul Marshall will again be handed the number 9 jersey and is partnered at half-back by Ian Humphreys.

Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave form the centre combination, while Scotland international Simon Danielli will continue in the full-back role.

Brian McLaughlin is delighted to have the likes of Muller, Court and Ferris available and he can now name the same starting line-up for the second consecutive week.

“To have the three guys available is a brilliant boost for us, you need your key players on the pitch,” he said.

“We have some guys in the squad who are understandably disappointed at missing out, but it shows the quality we have assembled. Continuity is very important and it gives us momentum going into what is a massive game for us.”

He added: “Clermont are an exceptional side, they’ve proved that with their results in the Top 14. We are going to focus on us, cut out the errors and try to be a bit more clinical when opportunities arise.”

Ulster know that to do well in Europe it is almost a prerequisite to win your home games. Hooker Rory Best said: “I think people underestimate how much the crowd can lift the players during matches. They really are like a 16th man for us.”

ULSTER (v Clermont Auvergne): Simon Danielli; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg.

Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Paddy McAllister, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Willie Faloon, Ian Porter, Nevin Spence, Adam D’Arcy.