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GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Scarlets v Ulster

GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Scarlets v Ulster

The first GUINNESS PRO12 match to broadcast live on Sky Sports features an Ulster team eager to mount another title challenge – just 16 weeks on from their semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Leinster.

GUINNESS PRO12: Saturday, September 6

SCARLETS v ULSTER, Parc y Scarlets, 2.40pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/BBC Radio Ulster)

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Team News: Louis Ludik, Franco van der Merwe and Wiehahn Herbst will make their competitive debuts for Ulster against the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday afternoon.

The province travel to Wales to take on a Scarlets side who beat Gloucester last weekend and who have a squad packed full of internationals.

Ludik, who joined Ulster in the summer, starts the game at full-back. Michael Allen is selected on the right wing with Jared Payne and Stuart Olding picked in the centre.

Craig Gilroy starts on the left wing with Ian Humphreys and Paul Marshall maintaining their partnership in the half-backs.

Up front, Callum Black lines out at loosehead prop, Rob Herring, who won his first cap for Ireland in the summer, resumes at hooker and new summer addition, Herbst, is named at tighthead prop.

Ireland’s Dan Tuohy and Springbok van der Merwe join forces in the second row, while there is an all-Ireland international back row of Robbie Diack, Chris Henry and number 8 and captain Roger Wilson.

John Andrew, who is listed among the replacements, is set for his first competitive appearance for Ulster. Ireland international Luke Marshall and last season’s IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year Andrew Trimble are also bench options for interim head coach Les Kiss.

Meanwhile, the Wayne Pivac-coached Scarlets will look to secure a solid start to the league run as they face strong opposition in the opening two rounds – Ulster and defending champions Leinster.

He has named an experienced side for the opening clash with no less than 12 internationals in the staring line-up as well as number 8 Rory Pitman, who was man-of-the-match against Gloucester, South African lock Johan Snyman and the Scarlets’ scrum cornerstone Phil John.

The following players are sidelined for the Llanelli outfit at present – Samson Lee (suspension), Chris Hala’ufia (conditioning), Frazier Climo (ankle), Josh Lewis (AC joint), Connor Lloyd (knee), Will Boyde (shoulder), George Earle (ankle), Aaron Warren (knee) and Jacobie Adriaanse (knee).

SCARLETS: Liam Williams; Harry Robinson, Regan King, Scott Williams, Michael Tagicakibau; Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens (capt), Rhodri Jones, Jake Ball, Johan Snyman, Rob McCusker, John Barclay, Rory Pitman.

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Peter Edwards, Richard Kelly, Aaron Shingler, Rhodri Williams, Steven Shingler, Gareth Owen

ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Michael Allen, Jared Payne, Stuart Olding, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson (capt).

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Nick Williams, Michael Heaney, Luke Marshall, Andrew Trimble.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies, Jon Mason (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tim Hayes (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 4/6; Draw: 18/1; Ulster to win: 11/10

Pre-Match Quotes: Robbie Diack (Ulster) – “It’s unbelievable the changes (since I started with Ulster in 2008) – the stadium, the management, recruitment, players that have come and gone, and just where the team is from seven years ago.

“We have had a couple of great pre-seasons in the past but they get you nowhere in the end. We judge ourselves in getting silverware. With that in mind, there is a general feeling that this could be a big year for us.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, it’s just we have changes the small percentages and up our accuracy during training and it will follow on to our game. That has happened in the last couple of weeks and it does increase the confidence.

“Everyone was disappointed to lose Johann (Muller) with his leadership and lineout ability, but Franco van der Merwe has come in and has done a magnificent job in the two games we have played.

“Wiehahn Herbst had a good time in the scrum against Leinster last week, and he will get even better working with Allen Clarke, while Louis Ludik has gelled in well and scored a try on his debut and could have got one last week as well.

“But all the new recruits have come in and really bought into the system here at Ulster and people are enjoying them and their enthusiasm.”

Wayne Pivac (Scarlets) – “Ulster have been a quality side for a number of years and have been in a constant in the play-offs in recent years. We’d like to improve on our sixth place – to do that we have to be able to compete against the Ulsters and Leinsters of the competition on a weekly basis.

“There’s no better team to have first up at home. I’m very much looking forward to the first competitive game of the season at home, here at Parc y Scarlets.

“The boys have done a lot of hard work and we’ve seen a couple of good runs against Bath and Gloucester – we don’t read too much into the pre-season but it is encouraging and the guys are looking forward to getting back out there.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 107; Tries: Gareth Davies 10; Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 183; Tries: Darren Cave, Tommy Bowe 5 each


Friday, December 2, 2011 – Ulster 24 Scarlets 17, Ravenhill
Sunday, December 2, 2012 – Scarlets 12 Ulster 19, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, January 4, 2013 – Ulster 47 Scarlets 17, Ravenhill
Friday, May 10, 2013 – Semi-final – Ulster 28 Scarlets 17, Ravenhill
Saturday, November 2, 2013 – Scarlets 17 Ulster 9, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, March 14, 2014 – Ulster 26 Scarlets 13, Ravenhill


– The Scarlets begin their campaign with a home game at Parc y Scarlets for a fourth successive year, but will not want a repeat of last season’s opening fixture when Leinster won 42-19

– The Welshmen have won four of their last five matches in the competition, the defeat being 17-13 to Cardiff Blues at Millennium Stadium on ‘Judgement Day’

– The Scarlets have won all six home games they have played in the GUINNESS PRO12 in 2014

– Ulster’s only victory in their last four PRO12 matches was 19-17 away at Munster in round 22

– In the 2013/14 campaign Ulster’s only victory in four trips to Wales came when they visited the Ospreys in round 5

– In their last six encounters, the Scarlets’ only victory over the Ulstermen came in this equivalent fixture in round 7 last season