European Champions Cup Pool 3 is especially tight at the moment with only five points separating the bottom-placed Scarlets from table toppers Toulon. If third-placed Ulster can chalk up another win in Llanelli, they will remain in the running for a quarter-final spot.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP POOL 3: Sunday, December 14
SCARLETS (4th), v ULSTER (3rd), Parc y Scarlets, 5.15pm (live BT Sport 2/BBC Radio Ulster MW/highlights TG4)
Team News: Luke Marshall has recovered from injury to be named in the Ulster team to face Scarlets in the European Champions Cup at Parc y Scarlets on Sunday.
Marshall suffered a knee injury while playing for Ulster Ravens in October, but he returns to senior action this weekend at inside centre.
Marshall’s inclusion is one of three personnel changes and one positional switch to the starting line-up that recorded a bonus point win over the same opposition at Kingspan Stadium last weekend.
Nick Williams and Wiehahn Herbst miss the game with hamstring injuries so Roger Wilson moves to number 8, Clive Ross is named at openside flanker, with Ireland international Declan Fitzpatrick selected at tighthead prop.
Stuart Olding also misses the game having suffered concussion in last Saturday’s 24-9 success in Belfast.
Ruan Pienaar continues at scrum half alongside Ian Humphreys, Marshall partners last weekend’s man-of-the-match, Darren Cave, in the centre with Louis Ludik at full-back and Ireland internationals Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy selected in the back-three.
The province’s captain Rory Best is joined by Callum Black and Fitzpatrick in the front row, while Franco van der Merwe has recovered from the head injury he suffered last weekend.
The influential South African starts in the second row along with Ireland international second row Dan Tuohy, and Ross and Wilson link up with Robbie Diack in the back row.
Prop Bronson Ross is named among the replacements and is in line to make his first European appearance if called upon. He is joined on the bench by forwards Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Alan O’Connor and Mike McComish.
Backs Paul Marshall, Michael Allen and Michael Heaney complete the matchday squad for the round 4 trip to Llanelli.
Sunday evening’s game will be live on BT Sport 2 with radio coverage on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Wales.
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Meanwhile, the selected Scarlets team features three changes from last Saturday, with Kristian Phillips making a return on the right wing, Rhodri Williams taking the scrum half spot and Rob McCusker making a return at number 8.
Experienced back rower John Barclay has not recovered from a thigh haematoma and veteran prop Phil John has undergone surgery to a longstanding knee problem, while regular captain Ken Owens and scrum half Gareth Davies are still on the long-term injury list.
SCARLETS: Liam Williams; Kristian Phillips, Regan King, Scott Williams (capt), Michael Tagicakibau; Rhys Priestland, Rhodri Williams; Rob Evans, Emyr Phillips, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Johan Snyman, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, Rob McCusker.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Wyn Jones, Rhodri Jones, George Earle, Rory Pitman, Aled Davies, Steven Shingler, Hadleigh Parkes.
ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best (capt), Declan Fitzpatrick, Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Clive Ross, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Alan O’Connor, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Michael Heaney, Michael Allen.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley, Roy Maybank (both England)
Television Match Official: Graham Hughes (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 6/4; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 8/15
Pre-Match Quotes: Dan Tuohy (Ulster) – “I don’t think the plan was (for me) to play 80 minutes (last weekend) but that’s the way it worked out. I was quite relaxed. I know as an international player, having played international rugby, people have standards and expectations of me that they expect me to hit.
“Also, Doaky (Neil Doak) had faith in me – after three months out (with injury) he could have stuck me on the bench, but he played me from the start. Fortunately, we got the right result.”
“It’s well documented how many people we are missing. That’s professional rugby. I am sure they are missing a few players. I think we need to go there (to Llanelli) with a positive mindset. We have talked this week about upping our intensity. They haven’t lost there this season and that shows you the strength that they have.
“With Leicester Tigers beating Toulon it certainly opens the group a bit. Last week’s game will count for nothing if we don’t beat the Scarlets over there. Both ourselves and Scarlets are sitting on one win, so someone is going to get the victory and the other team is going to be left behind.”
Wayne Pivac (Scarlets) – “We know we can win at home – we’ve had no problems in terms of the output, energy and focus of the boys.
“There were several differences between the sides last weekend. The opportunities Ulster created through ill-discipline were converted into points and they were very clinical.
“We’ve been looking at getting the little things right that we didn’t last week. There are things that we can turn around and it comes down to individual output and energy. There’s only a win in it between top and bottom and we’re still very much in charge of our destiny.
“The game is massive for us now – Tigers did both us, themselves and Ulster a favour. It’s a massive game in the context of our European campaign.
“If we get the result we’re after then we’re alive and it’s bring on the next opposition which is Toulon and that can hopefully be a magnificent occasion here at the Parc.”
Current Form – Scarlets – (GUINNESS PRO12): Drew 32-32 at home to Ulster; Lost 42-12 away to Leinster; Won 43-0 at home to Benetton Treviso; Drew 20-20 away to Edinburgh; Won 26-13 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 17-6 away to Munster; (European Champions Cup): Lost 28-18 away to Toulon; Won 15-3 at home to Leicester Tigers; (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 28-13 at home to Zebre; (LV= Cup): Lost 24-7 at home to Northampton Saints; Lost 19-13 away to Cardiff Blues; (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 19-9 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Lost 14-8 away to Connacht; (European Champions Cup): Lost 24-9 away to Ulster
Ulster – (GUINNESS PRO12): Drew 32-32 away to the Scarlets; Won 33-13 at home to Zebre; Won 26-9 away to Cardiff Blues; Lost 13-6 away to Zebre; Won 30-0 at home to Edinburgh; Won 29-9 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (European Champions Cup): Lost 25-18 away to Leicester Tigers; Lost 23-13 at home to Toulon; (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 23-6 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 25-16 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 21-20 away to Munster; (European Champions Cup): Won 24-9 at home to the Scarlets
Top Scorers – 2014/15 European Champions Cup: Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 17; Tries: John Barclay, Kristian Phillips, Harry Robinson, Aled Davies 1 each; Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 16; Tries: Tommy Bowe 2
Previous European Meetings: 7
Saturday, December 6, 2014 – Pool 3 – Ulster 24 Scarlets 9, Kingspan Stadium
Friday, December 12, 2008 – Pool 4 – Scarlets 16 Ulster 16, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, December 5, 2008 – Pool 4 – Ulster 26 Scarlets 16, Ravenhill
Saturday, January 13, 2007 – Pool 5 – Ulster 11 Scarlets 35, Ravenhill
Friday, October 27, 2006 – Pool 5 – Scarlets 21 Ulster 15, Stradey Park
Saturday, December 18, 1999 – Pool 3 – Scarlets 20 Ulster 3, Stradey Park
Friday, December 10, 1999 – Pool 3 – Ulster 6 Scarlets 29, Ravenhill
European Cup Records:
2013/14: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2006/07: Reached the semi-finals
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2003/04: Reached the quarter-finals
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
1999/00: Reached the semi-finals
1998/99: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Reached the quarter-final play-off
1996/97: Reached the quarter-finals
2013/14: Reached the quarter-finals
2012/13: Reached the quarter-finals
2010/11: Reached the quarter-finals
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool C
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool B