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European Champions Cup Preview: Ulster v Leicester Tigers

European Champions Cup Preview: Ulster v Leicester Tigers

Ulster’s inaugural European Champions Cup campaign may be over prematurely but they will want to finish with a flourish by gaining revenge on Leicester Tigers in Belfast.


ULSTER (4th) v LEICESTER TIGERS (2nd), Kingspan Stadium, 5.30pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/BBC Radio Ulster MW/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Ireland international Iain Henderson will start his first match of the season for Ulster against Leicester Tigers at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening.

Henderson suffered a hip injury in pre-season and comes back into the side at blindside flanker. The return of the 22-year-old is one of eight changes to the starting line-up for last weekend’s 60-22 loss to Toulon.

Ireland internationals Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy and Rory Best also return to the team. The other changes see Ian Humphreys named at out-half, Callum Black selected at loosehead prop and Wiehahn Herbst picked at tighthead.

Jared Payne continues at full-back with Bowe starting on the right wing and Gilroy on the left. Darren Cave maintains his place in midfield alongside the returning Marshall who is picked at inside centre.

Ruan Pienaar, who passed the 200-point mark for Ulster in Europe last Saturday, partners former Leicester player Humphreys at half-back.

Black, Best and Herbst form the new-look front row with Alan O’Connor and Franco van der Merwe continuing their partnership in the second row.

Henderson is joined in the back row by openside flanker Mike McComish, the province’s two-try hero against Toulon, and number 8 Roger Wilson.

Forwards Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson, Clive Ross and Neil McComb are named as replacements, along with backs Paul Marshall and Michael Allen.

Tickets for the round 6 game, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 1 and BBC Radio Ulster MW, are still available and can be purchased online by clicking here.

Fans will also be able to buy on the gate on Saturday evening, although for the best available tickets, supporters are encouraged to purchase in advance.

Meanwhile, Marcos Ayerza and Tom Youngs return to the Leicester Tigers front row for the Pool 3 climax against the Ulstermen in Belfast.

Argentina prop Ayerza and England international hooker Youngs were both among the replacements for the round 5 win over the Scarlets last weekend but they swap places for this match with Michele Rizzo and Leonardo Ghiraldini.

Graham Kitchener, who is included in the England squad ahead of the RBS 6 Nations, also returns to the starting line-up as a replacement for Brad Thorn who was an early withdrawal in the victory over the Scarlets with a calf injury.

The only other change to the matchday 23 from last Friday sees the return from injury of Dubliner Niall Morris, who is included on the bench.

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best (capt), Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O’Connor, Franco van der Merwe, Iain Henderson, Mike McComish, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson, Clive Ross, Neil McComb, Paul Marshall, Michael Allen.

LEICESTER TIGERS: Mathew Tait; Adam Thompstone, Vereniki Goneva, Seremaia Bai, Miles Benjamin; Freddie Burns, Ben Youngs (capt); Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs, Logovi’i Mulipola, Graham Kitchener, Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Julian Salvi, Jordan Crane.

Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Michele Rizzo, Fraser Balmain, Sebastian de Chaves, Robert Barbieri, Sam Harrison, Owen Williams, Niall Morris.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Cyril Lafon, Stephane Boyer (both France)
Television Match Official: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 11/10; Draw: 19/1; Leicester Tigers to win: 4/6

Pre-Match Quotes: Neil Doak (Ulster) – “(The 60-22 loss to Toulon) is not the way we want to remember this European campaign. So come Saturday, the guys are determined to put in a performance.

“We have shown glimpses of what we can create but we’ve got to do that for 80 minutes because we want to end this European campaign on a high. We want to make sure we put in a big performance for the large home crowd who will be supporting the team.

“With the injuries we were putting massive demands on some players and you have to look after them. In respect of the Irish internationals we chose to rest them for the Toulon game and play them in Treviso as the PRO12 was now our main focus given that in essence our Euro campaign was over.

“This week we are hopeful of getting some guys back and we want to finish our European games on a high. We have lost one home game in this campaign, we do not want to lose a second.”

Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) – “To win at Ravenhill is a really tough so if we win (on Saturday), that’s a good springboard for the rest of the season, because it is that tough a place to go.

“I’ve been there twice now and got beaten fairly convincingly, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.

“We need another four tries again so I guess the Scarlets game was almost like a trial run. Getting that result will give us confidence going to Ulster.”

Current Form – 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; Lost 22-13 away to the Scarlets; (GUINNESS PRO12): Lost 31-20 away to the Ospreys; Won 13-10 at home to Connacht; Lost 24-11 away to Leinster; Won 24-20 away to Benetton Treviso; (European Champions Cup): Lost 60-22 away to Toulon

Leicester Tigers – (Aviva Premiership): Won 36-17 at home to Newcastle Falcons; Won 24-20 away to Exeter Chiefs; Lost 45-0 away to Bath; Lost 22-19 at home to London Irish; Lost 33-16 away to Gloucester; Won 22-16 at home to Harlequins; (European Champions Cup): Won 25-18 at home to Ulster; Lost 15-3 away to the Scarlets; (LV= Cup): Won 17-16 away to London Irish; Won 29-13 at home to Sale Sharks; (Aviva Premiership): Drew 21-21 at home to Saracens; Won 26-5 away to London Welsh; Won 18-16 at home to Wasps; (European Champions Cup): Won 25-21 at home to Toulon; Lost 23-8 away to Toulon; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 23-19 away to Northampton Saints; Won 32-30 away to Sale Sharks; Won 17-8 at home to Bath; Lost 32-12 away to Harlequins; (European Champions Cup): Won 40-23 at home to the Scarlets

Top Scorers – 2014/15 European Champions Cup: Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 21; Tries: Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Mike McComish 2 each; Leicester Tigers – Points: Owen Williams 41; Tries: Tom Youngs 2

Previous European Meetings: 7

Saturday, October 18, 2014 – Pool 3 – Leicester Tigers 25 Ulster 18, Welford Road
Saturday, January 18, 2014 – Pool 5 – Leicester Tigers 19 Ulster 22, Welford Road
Friday, October 11, 2013 – Pool 5 – Ulster 22 Leicester Tigers 16, Ravenhill
Friday, January 13, 2011 – Pool 4 – Ulster 41 Leicester Tigers 7, Ravenhill
Saturday, November 19, 2011 – Pool 4 – Leicester Tigers 20 Ulster 9, Welford Road
Saturday, January 17, 2004 – Pool 1 – Leicester Tigers 49 Ulster 7, Welford Road
Sunday, January 11, 2004 – Pool 1 – Ulster 33 Leicester Tigers 0, Ravenhill

Match Facts –

– Ulster have won all three of their home meetings with Leicester, in fact all but one of the seven games between these two teams have been won by the home side on the day

– The last three meetings between the sides, all of which have been in the pool stages, have seen a losing bonus point claimed

– Ulster are aiming to avoid losing a fifth loss this season, the last time this occurred was in 2007/08

– Leicester have won 16 lineouts per game on average in the tournament, more than any other team

European Cup Records:

Ulster –
2013/14: Reached the quarter-finals
2012/13: Reached the quarter-finals
2011/12: Runners-up
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
1998/99: Champions
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool C
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool B

Leicester Tigers –
2013/14: Reached the quarter-finals
2012/13: Reached the quarter-finals
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2010/11: Reached the quarter-finals
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2008/09: Runners-up
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2006/07: Runners-up
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the semi-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Champions
2000/01: Champions
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1997/98: Reached the quarter-finals
1996/97: Runners-up