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McLaughlin Alters Ulster Selection

McLaughlin Alters Ulster Selection

Brian McLaughlin has made five personnel changes and one positional switch to his starting team for Ulster’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Benetton Treviso on Saturday (kick-off 4.15 local time/3.15pm Irish time).

Ulster have been boosted by Johann Muller (calf) and Darren Cave (foot) both returning to action after two months on the sidelines.

Captain Muller has not featured since the Heineken Cup pool clash with Clermont Auvergne on January 21, while Cave has been unavailable since the previous week against Leicester Tigers.

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Ian Humphreys has been recalled to the starting line-up so Ruan Pienaar switches back to scrum half at the expense of Paul Marshall.

Cave will partner Paddy Wallace in the centre, while the back-three of Stefan Terblanche, Craig Gilroy and Adam D’Arcy is unchanged from the last outing against Edinbugh.

Up front, Tom Court returns from International duty to join Andi Kyriacou and John Afoa in the front row, with Muller partnering Dan Tuohy in the engine room once again.

Pedrie Wannenburg has been ruled out by illness, so the back row unit is comprised of Chris Henry, Willie Faloon and Robbie Diack.

Ireland players Andrew Trimble, Rory Best and Stephen Ferris have been rested after starting every match of the 2012 Six Nations.

Ulster have had two weeks without a game, following their 38-16 win over Edinbugh at the beginning of the month.

Head coach Brian McLaughlin feels this will have a positive rather than negative effect on his charges, stating: “The players are feeling rejuvenated after a few weeks off.

“We are into the final phase of the season now and all the games are vital so it’s important they feel fresh. We want to claim a play-off spot in the PRO12 and we also have Europe on the horizon, so it’s easy to get the players motivated.”

The break between matches has also provided Cave and Muller with more time to overcome their respective injuries and McLaughlin is delighted to have them back in the team.

“Johann is a superb leader and it’s always great to have him available. He is a great lineout forward and he will lift others around him with his presence.

“We felt that Darren deserved a chance to come back in and show what he can do because he was playing really well before the injury.

“We are very strong in the centres and Ian (Whitten) and Nevin (Spence) have done a tremendous job over the past couple of months, so it was a tough decision.”

Commenting on the return of Humphreys to the starting line-up, the Ulster boss added: “We looked at Paul and Ruan as our half-backs but when Ian is on form, he is the best organiser in the team and he really gets us going and helps us play the brand of rugby we want to play.

“Pedrie has been ruled out due to illness but we expect him to be back for next week against Aironi. It will be important to have everyone fit and available going into the business end of the season.”

ULSTER (v Benetton Treviso): Adam D’Arcy; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Stefan Terblanche; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Andi Kyriacou, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence.