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Heineken Cup Preview: Ulster v Leicester Tigers

Heineken Cup Preview: Ulster v Leicester Tigers

Two of the beaten quarter-finalists from last season’s Heineken Cup meet on the opening night of the 2013/14 tournament, with Ulster looking to make home advantage count at what is sure to be a raucous Ravenhill.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 5: Friday, October 11

ULSTER v LEICESTER TIGERS, Ravenhill, 8pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/BBC Radio Ulster MW/Newstalk/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Tommy Bowe will start on the left wing for Ulster in their Heineken Cup opener against Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill on Friday, coming in as one of three changes to the team that beat the Ospreys last weekend.

Ireland winger Bowe has recovered from the dead leg that he sustained in the bonus point win over Benetton Treviso a fortnight ago.

Jared Payne switches to full-back in place of Craig Gilroy, who has failed to recover from the ankle injury that he picked up against the Ospreys, with Darren Cave coming in at outside centre

In the only change up front, Roger Wilson starts at blindside flanker with Robbie Diack dropping down to the replacements bench.

Ruan Pienaar, who signed a new three-year contract extension with the province this week, is also named among the replacements.

John Afoa was unavailable for selection but is recovering well from injury. The game will be shown live on Sky Sports 1, with coverage starting at 7pm.

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill has made three changes to the starting line-up from last Saturday’s 19-all league draw with Northampton Saints.

Miles Benjamin is called up for duty on the right wing, with Dan Bowden lining out at inside centre and 2013 Lion Geoff Parling resumes in the second row.

Benjamin, the former Worcester Warriors player, makes his Tigers debut after a successful return from a long-term neck injury. He starts in place of Blaine Scully who took a heavy knock in the match against Northampton.

Bowden replaces Anthony Allen who has an ankle injury and Parling has recovered from injury to join Louis Deacon at lock with Graham Kitchener among the replacements.

Of course, former Leinster back Niall Morris is a notable inclusion at full-back for Leicester. The Dubliner won the Aviva Premiership with Cockerill’s men last season and then went on to play for the Emerging Ireland side in June’s Tbilisi Cup.

Former Waratahs centre Terrence Hepetema receives a first call-up to the Leicester matchday squad and is named on the bench.

Allen and Scully join Manu Tuilagi, Matt Smith, Tom Croft, Steve Mafi, Mathew Tait, Rob Hawkins, Ryan Lamb and Scott Hamilton on the sidelines this week, while Marcos Ayerza is in Argentina awaiting the birth of his first child.

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe; Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Roger Wilson, Chris Henry, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton, Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Ruan Pienaar, Stuart Olding, Michael Allen.

LEICESTER TIGERS: Niall Morris; Miles Benjamin, Vereniki Goneva, Dan Bowden, Adam Thompstone; Toby Flood (capt), Ben Youngs; Logovii Mulipola, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Geoff Parling, Ed Slater, Julian Salvi, Jordan Crane.

Replacements: Neil Briggs, Boris Stankovich, Fraser Balmain, Graham Kitchener, Thomas Waldrom, David Mele, Owen Williams, Terrence Hepetema.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Christophe Berdos, Stephane Boyer (both France)
Television Match Official: Bernard dal Maso (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 4/9; Draw: 25/1; Leicester Tigers to win: 15/8

Pre-Match Quotes: Andrew Trimble (Ulster) – “(Not beating Northampton at home last season) cost us and in this competition you have to produce six massive performances (in the pool stages).

“A massive performance on the road could be getting a losing bonus point, but you have to win your three home games then you have to do whatever else you can elsewhere.

“We slipped up and took on eye of the ball for a second and Northampton chinned us and it cost us later in the season. We’ll go into this season knowing we can’t afford any slip-ups but you have to win your home games.

“If you don’t build momentum and struggle to get a result early on then you’ll struggle to make something of your campaign.

“Leicester won’t fancy it but they will want to put a lot of wrongs right (from past meetings), they have a proud rugby history and they are not a side that go on the road and get bonus pointed – that just doesn’t happen to them and they are not used to it.

“We need to plant that seed in their mind early on Friday night and just remind them how good a side we are.

“We want to get the balance of having a healthy respect for them but at the same time we want to produce a massive display like we usually do at Ravenhill and if we do that it will be good enough.”

Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers) – “We’ve had two very bad nights at Ravenhill down the years. I didn’t go to Belfast two seasons ago, but it was very disappointing. They played very well and we were poor. We can’t afford for that to happen again.

“There is certainly a burning desire within the squad to reach the final again. It has been a frustrating 11 years waiting to bring the Heineken Cup back to Welford Road after those back-to-back triumphs in 2001 and 2002.

“Last year we had to go to Toulon in the quarter-finals, but we all felt we could have come away with a result there. We are a club that is capable of winning on the road in the big games.

“Games in this tournament don’t come much harder than having to face Ulster at Ravenhill on a Friday night and we know it is going to be a difficult start. It is as hard a place to go as any in Europe.

“But while we know what lies ahead of us, no team can afford to take Leicester lightly. We have a great pedigree in the Heineken Cup, and even though we haven’t won it since 2002, we have been in two more finals since then.”

Current Form – 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

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

Previous European Meetings: 4

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 And Figures –

– The two teams have met on four occasions in the Heineken Cup, claiming two wins apiece. Their last encounter was at Ravenhill in January 2012 when Ulster romped to a 41-7 victory – their third largest winning margin in the tournament

– Overall, Ulster have a modest record against English opponents in this tournament, winning 13 and losing 20, but the Ulstermen have won 14 of their last 15 home matches in the Heineken Cup

– The Tigers have won just one of their last six (14-13 v Benetton Treviso) away from home in the tournament, losing four and drawing one

– The English club have lost three of their last four games against Irish opposition, with their sole win in this run coming against Ulster in November 2011

– Overall, Leicester have won nine and lost 10 against Irish provinces, but just three of those victories have come on Irish soil

– Ulster had the poorest lineout success rate in the Heineken Cup last season, winning just 73% of their own throws

– Ulster’s goal-kicking accuracy rate was just 58%, well below the 70% average in the 2012/13 Heineken Cup

– Rory Best won a competition high 14 turnovers in last season’s tournament – five more than any other player

Heineken Cup Records:

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

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