Ulster made a breakthrough last January with their first competitive win on French soil, beating Castres Olympique 9-8. A similar result away to Montpellier would complete an excellent start to this season’s Heineken Cup for the province.
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 5: Saturday, October 19
MONTPELLIER (1st) v ULSTER (2nd), Stade Yves du Manoir, 4.40pm local time/3.40pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 2 red button/Sky Sports Xtra/BBC Radio Ulster MW/highlights TG4)
Team News: South African half-back Ruan Pienaar will make his first start of the season for Ulster in Saturday’s Heineken Cup Pool 5 game against Montpellier at Stade Yves du Manoir.
Pienaar’s inclusion is one of two personnel changes to the Ulster side that beat Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill last Friday night.
Man-of-the-match from the Tigers game, Roger Wilson, moves from blindside flanker to number 8 as Nick Williams misses the round 2 fixture with a calf injury. Robbie Diack is promoted from the bench to wear the number 6 jersey.
New Zealand prop John Afoa has been included among the replacements and is in line to make his first appearance of the season for Ulster. He has recovered from the calf injury that has kept him out for since the summer.
Meanwhile, former Ulster winger Timoci Nagusa, who played for the province on 26 occasions, has been included in the Montpellier team for Saturday’s Pool 5 showdown.
Thomas Combezou drops to the replacements bench as Nagusa is drafted in on the right wing and Anthony Tuitavke switches to outside centre where he partners South African international Wynand Oliver.
Jonathan Pelissie came off the bench to score Montpellier’s first try in their 27-10 defeat of Benetton Treviso and the goal-kicking scrum half has been rewarded with a starting berth against the Ulstermen, slotting in alongside Francois Trinh-Duc.
Of course, Montpellier head coach Fabien Galthié has a powerful set of forwards at his disposal which includes imposing Georgian back rower Mamumka Gorgodze.
French tighthead prop Nicolas Mas has been kept in reserve with the hosts fielding a changed front row of Yvan Watremez, hooker Mickael Ivaldi and Maximiliano Bustos.
Thibaut Privat resumes in the second row alongside Scotland international Jim Hamilton, and captain Fulgence Ouedraogo also returns at blindside flanker in the seventh and final change to the starting line-up.
MONTPELLIER: Anthony Floch; Timoci Nagusa, Anthony Tuitavke, Wynand Olivier, Yoan Audrin; Francois Trinh-Duc, Jonathan Pelissie; Yvan Watremez, Mickael Ivaldi, Maximiliano Bustos, Jim Hamilton, Thibaut Privat, Fulgence Ouedraogo (capt), Mamuka Gorgodze, Kelian Galletier.
Replacements: Thomas Bianchin, Mikheil Nariashvili, Nicolas Mas, Fred Quercy, Robins Tchale Watchou, Benoit Paillaugue, Thomas Combezou, Benoit Sicart.
ULSTER: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, John Afoa, Lewis Stevenson, Iain Henderson, Paul Marshall, Stuart Olding, Michael Allen.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Jonathan Mason, Chris Williams (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Montpellier to win: 3/10; Draw: 25/1; Ulster to win: 5/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Johann Muller (Ulster) – “There were some real positives against Leicester in all aspects of the game, we had a look at the video on Monday and we created a lot more chances this time around than we did a couple of years ago when we beat them by 40 points.
“That’s the frustrating thing we are creating so many opportunities but we’re not converting them. This week is all about us and making sure that we have everything in place.
“Montpellier away from home, they have a massive pack of forwards and we all know the French don’t lose at home and that is their motto.
“They have done really well in the Top 14 so far and had a couple of massive results in it. It doesn’t get any bigger than this for us as a team.
“We know what we did last weekend against Leicester will probably not be good enough. We need to lift it another 10% if we have any chance of getting a win.
“We have got that monkey (winning in France) off our back, in that Clermont game we got so close and played really well on the day and it could have gone any way, last year it wasn’t pretty against Castres but we ground it out and got the victory.
“Once again this weekend we have a great opportunity to go down there and play as well as we can and anything can happen on the day.”
Timoci Nagusa (Montpellier) – “I still remember the cold of Belfast, but I loved that place. I’ll always have a soft spot for Belfast because it is where I really started my professional rugby career.
“Most of my friends are still playing for Ulster and it will be great to meet up with Darren Cave again. He is a very close friend and I named my son after him. Being so close to so many of the Ulster players will make this a very special game for me.
“Ulster’s pack and ours are pretty similar, a good balance between power and pace, and it should be an interesting battle in the scrum, in the lineout and at the breakdown. Whoever wins that collision will win the game.
“Ulster have grown a lot as a team over the past three years. They’ve reached the final stages of the PRO12 and of the Heineken Cup – they’ve grown big!
“They have a quality squad which is still pretty young. They like to play a fast flowing game, which suits their players. From hooker to the wings they’re all very quick.
“We’ll have to watch out for every single one of them – Paddy Jackson at 10, Luke Marshall at 12, Darren at 13, Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe on the wings.
“We’ll also have to be disciplined on Saturday, because they have some amazing kickers in Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson.”
Current Form – Montpellier – (Top 14 Championship): Drew 22-22 at home to Toulon; Lost 19-12 away to Biarritz Olympique; Won 33-24 at home to Brive; Won 36-29 away to Bordeaux-Begles; Won 25-0 at home to Toulouse; Lost 28-16 away to Perpignan; Won 43-3 at home to Clermont Auvergne; Lost 18-11 away to Stade Francais; Won 45-20 at home to Oyonnax; (Heineken Cup): Won 27-10 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
Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Montpellier – Points: Benoit Paillaugue 12; Tries: Jonathan Pelissie, Thomas Combezou 1 each; Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 17; Tries: Tommy Bowe 1
Previous European Meetings: 0
Match Facts And Figures –
– Montpellier are undefeated at home in the Heineken Cup. After drawing their first two games they have gone on to win the next four
– Ulster’s win against Castres in January was their first away win in France in the Heineken Cup, having lost 13 of their preceding 14 games (including one draw)
– Only Mike Brown (148) made more metres with the ball in hand than Montpellier number 8 Kelian Galletier (143) during the opening weekend of action
– Ulster have won seven of their last 10 away games in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup, after winning just one of the previous 20
Heineken Cup Records:
2012/13: Reached the quarter-finals
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
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