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Heineken Cup Preview: Leicester Tigers v Ulster

Heineken Cup Preview: Leicester Tigers v Ulster

Already-qualified Ulster will aim for a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup when they renew rivalries with Leicester Tigers in a round 6 tie that really whets the appetite.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 5: Saturday, January 18

LEICESTER TIGERS (2nd) v ULSTER (1st), Welford Road, 6pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/BBC Radio Ulster MW/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Ulster hooker Rory Best will make his 150th appearance for the province in Saturday’s Heineken Cup Pool 5 decider against Leicester Tigers.

Best is named at hooker alongside former All Black tighthead prop John Afoa and loosehead Callum Black, who makes his first ever start in the Heineken Cup.

The inclusion of Black is one of two changes to the team that defeated Montpellier at Ravenhill last weekend.

The other sees Roger Wilson selected at blindside flanker with Robbie Diack moving to the replacements bench. Nick Williams starts at number 8, with Chris Henry picked at openside.

Johann Muller captains the side and is joined by Dan Tuohy in the second row.

Craig Gilroy has recovered from the injury that he sustained against Montpellier and starts on the left wing with Andrew Trimble named on the right and Jared Payne continuing at full-back.

Luke Marshall and Darren Cave maintain their partnership in midfield. Paddy Jackson and Ruan Pienaar link up once more at half-back.

Prop Declan Fitzpatrick was unavailable for selection having sustained concussion in last weekend’s game.

Ricky Lutton is named on the bench, as are Tom Court, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, David McIlwaine and Michael Allen.

Ulster are the only team to have won all five pool matches in the competition this season and are the only side to have qualified for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals in the last four seasons in a row.

Meanwhile, Anthony Allen and Tom Youngs have been recalled to the Leicester Tigers starting line-up for the visit of the unbeaten Ulstermen.

Tigers vice-captain Allen is joined by Matt Smith in midfield, with Vereniki Goneva moving to the left wing in place of Miles Benjamin who has a knee injury. Club captain Toby Flood reverts to the out-half role.

Youngs returns to the front row after missing the bonus point win in Treviso last weekend, while Graham Kitchener and Ed Slater form the second row partnership after also missing the trip to Italy. Jordan Crane returns to the number 8 shirt.

Allen will be making his first appearance at Welford Road since October after coming back from injury with a role from the replacements bench in the Treviso game.

Rob Hawkins and Steve Mafi, who both returned from lengthy absences in Italy last time out, are included among the replacements.

Tigers and Ulster have already secured their places in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, but home advantage in the last-eight is the prize for the winners on Saturday.

LEICESTER TIGERS: Mathew Tait; Niall Morris, Matt Smith, Anthony Allen, Vereniki Goneva; Toby Flood (capt), Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Ed Slater, Graham Kitchener, Jamie Gibson, Julian Salvi, Jordan Crane.

Replacements: Rob Hawkins, Boris Stankovich, Fraser Balmain, Louis Deacon, Steve Mafi, David Mélé, Owen Williams, Scott Hamilton.

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Roger Wilson, Chris Henry, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Tom Court, Ricky Lutton, Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, David McIlwaine, Michael Allen.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Bricknell, Jonathan Mason (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tim Hayes (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leicester Tigers to win: 4/7; Draw: 22/1; Ulster to win: 7/5

Pre-Match Quotes: Rory Best (Ulster) – “Obviously 150 caps is a great achievement. It is nice to get, but you would swap all that for a home quarter-final.

“It (the match against Leicester Tigers) has the potential to be a great day for us. It is something that we have talked about a lot over the last couple of years, once we started to get out of the pool and into the quarters for the first time.

“We said then the next thing we wanted was a home one. We have put ourselves in a great position to do that at this stage.

“We are the only unbeaten team in Europe and we need to make sure we get to Saturday night maintaining that. We have put ourselves in positions like this before.

“Last year we were in a great position in the December games and then let that slip. That ultimately cost us the home quarter-final, so we want to make sure we do everything right this weekend.

“I think because we have got to round 6 and it happened in round 2, everyone has forgotten about it (the game against Montpellier). We went there and beat one of the top teams in France – their top team that day.

“We beat them quite comfortably in the end. To go into the quarter-finals having knocked over two of the top teams in Europe would be massive.

“It would be a bit of a statement, but it would be a massive confidence boost for us to go to two top clubs, two intimidating places and have won.

“Leicester have been fantastic the way they have navigated through the pool after their initial loss to us and they have put themselves in a similar position. It is set up for a cracking game and set up for a game that we truly believe we can win.”

Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers) – “I’m very excited. These are the games you want to play in. It’s why you do sport, this is why you play rugby.

“It’s these pressure occasions where there’s a fear of failure. You don’t want to experience that, so you do everything you can in the week building up to it to make sure you’re ready.

“We’ve given ourselves this huge opportunity to be at home in the quarter-finals and we’ve got to take that opportunity, because they really don’t come around that often. You’re always at your best when you play at home.

“Ulster are a very good side. They’re very organised, physical and very good at the breakdown. They kick a lot of ball and chase exceptionally well.

“When we played over there, their kicking game won them the match. They kicked better than us and put more pressure on our back-three and we didn’t cope with that particularly well. That’s something we’ve looked to improve on this week.”

Current Form – Leicester Tigers – (Aviva Premiership): Won 32-15 at home to Worcester Warriors; Lost 27-20 away to Bath; Won 31-6 at home to Newcastle Falcons; Won 21-9 away to Exeter Chiefs; Drew 19-19 at home to Northampton Saints; (Heineken Cup): Lost 22-16 away to Ulster; Won 34-3 at home to Benetton Treviso; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 22-12 away to London Wasps; Lost 23-16 at home to Harlequins; (LV= Cup): Won 39-16 at home to the Ospreys; Won 21-18 away to Worcester Warriors; (Aviva Premiership): Won 20-11 at home to London Irish; Won 22-17 away to Gloucester; (Heineken Cup): Won 41-32 at home to Montpellier; Won 15-14 away to Montpellier; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 49-10 away to Saracens; Won 30-23 at home to Sale Sharks; Drew 27-27 at home to Bath; (Heineken Cup): Won 34-19 away to Benetton Treviso

Ulster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 15-8 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 13-12 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Won 18-7 away to Connacht; Won 32-13 at home to Benetton Treviso; Won 18-12 away to the Ospreys; (Heineken Cup): Won 22-16 at home to Leicester Tigers; Won 25-8 away to Montpellier; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 39-21 at home to Cardiff Blues; Lost 17-9 away to the Scarlets; Won 41-17 at home to Edinburgh; Won 19-11 away to Zebre; (Heineken Cup): Won 48-0 at home to Benetton Treviso; Won 35-3 away to Benetton Treviso; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 13-6 at home to Zebre; Lost 19-6 away to Leinster; Won 29-19 at home to Munster; (Heineken Cup): Won 27-16 at home to Montpellier

Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Leicester Tigers – Points: Toby Flood 40; Tries: Miles Benjamin 4; Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 55; Tries: Luke Marshall 3

Previous European Meetings: 5

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

Heineken Cup Records:

Leicester Tigers –
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

Ulster –
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