Jump to main content


Ulster Team Shows Twelve Changes

Ulster Team Shows Twelve Changes

Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has made 12 changes to his team for the RaboDirect PRO12 derby clash with Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm).

Brian McLaughlin has decided to rest a number of players, leaving out-half Ian Humphreys, full-back Stefan Terblanche and prop Tom Court as the only players retained from the side that beat Munster in last weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-final.

In the backs, Paul Marshall deputises at scrum half for the benched Ruan Pienaar. There is a new centre combination with current Ireland Under-20 captain Paddy Jackson partnering Nevin Spence.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Adam D’Arcy and Ian Whitten replace Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy on the wings, with the latter dropping to the bench after his try of the season contender at Thomond Park.

Up front, Nigel Brady starts as hooker in place of Rory Best and takes over the captaincy role from Johann Muller.

Court moves across the scrum to tighthead prop, with Paddy McAllister starting at loosehead prop. Lewis Stevenson and Neil McComb link up together in the second row for the first time.

The dynamic trio of Mike McComish, Willie Faloon and Robbie Diack form a new-look back row in place of Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry and Pedrie Wannenburg.

Promising lock Iain Henderson, who is just 20, has been included among the province’s replacements and could make his senior debut.

His Phoenix Academy colleagues Ali Birch and Michael Allen are also part of the matchday panel along with Callum Black, Andi Kyriacou, Adam Macklin, Pienaar and Gilroy.

The game is vital for Ulster’s hopes of finishing in the top four of the RaboDirect PRO12 and a win could send them into second place. They currently occupy fifth spot in the table but are just three points adrift of the second-placed Ospreys.

If things go to plan for Ulster, it could be the longest season in the province’s history so McLaughlin is aware that he needs to keep his players in peak condition.

“The Munster match was very physical and a lot of players are still carrying bumps and bruises, so we decided it was best to give some of them a break,” he said.

“It is crucial to look after the players with so many important games coming up before the end of the season. There are opportunities for us to test the water a bit with some of our squad players and it will be exciting to see how they perform.”

One such player is Jackson, who has been deployed at inside centre rather than his usual out-half position.

“We know what Paddy is capable of and we thought this was a perfect chance to try him out at 12 and allow him to add another string to his bow,” he added.

McLaughlin has been impressed with Henderson in recent months and feels he deserves his place on the bench:

“Iain had a tremendous Six Nations campaign with the Ireland Under-20s and he’s been training with us in recent weeks and has done very well. He is a big talent and it is important to give him experience at this level.”

The Ulster boss knows his side face a difficult task against the westerners, with Ulster being held 15-15 on their most recent trip to Galway.

“The game in Galway will be huge. They have shown that they are capable of beating anyone on their day, particularly at the Sportsground.

“It’s one of the toughest places to go in the PRO12 to get a result. But as ever, we are confident we can do just that.”

ULSTER (v Connacht): Stefan Terblanche; Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence, Paddy Jackson, Adam D’Arcy; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Paddy McAllister, Nigel Brady (capt), Tom Court, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Iain Henderson, Ali Birch, Ruan Pienaar, Craig Gilroy, Michael Allen.