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Heineken Cup Quarter-Final Preview: Ulster v Saracens

Heineken Cup Quarter-Final Preview: Ulster v Saracens

Ulster, the only team to go through their pool unbeaten, will have revenge on their minds when they look to turn the tables on Saracens who beat them at this stage of the Heineken Cup twelve months ago.


ULSTER v SARACENS, Ravenhill, 6.30pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/Canal +/BBC Radio Ulster/Newstalk/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Ruan Pienaar has recovered from injury to be named in the Ulster team to face Saracens in Saturday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final at Ravenhill.

Pienaar, the 2007 Rugby World Cup winner, starts at scrum half with Ireland international Paddy Jackson selected at out-half.

Tommy Bowe – one of eleven players in the squad to have made more than 100 appearances for the province – is named on the left wing with fellow Ireland international Andrew Trimble selected on the right.

International centres Luke Marshall and Darren Cave continue their partnership in midfield with Jared Payne, who qualifies to play for Ireland later this year, starting at full-back.

Tom Court starts the game at loosehead prop alongside two-time Six Nations winner Rory Best and New Zealander John Afoa.

Johann Muller captains the Ulstermen from the second row, where he is joined by fit-again Ireland international Dan Tuohy.

Roger Wilson and Chris Henry, two more of Ulster’s international contingent, are named in the back row with Kiwi powerhouse Nick Williams selected at number 8.

There are four Ireland internationals on the bench with Stephen Ferris, Iain Henderson, Craig Gilroy and Paul Marshall joined by Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton, Robbie Diack and Andrew Warwick.

Meanwhile, Owen Farrell is one of the changes to the Saracens team that beat London Wasps last weekend, with the England out-half returning to partner Richard Wigglesworth at half-back.

In the backs, the Heineken Cup’s leading try scorer this season, Chris Ashton, starts on the right wing and is joined by David Strettle and Alex Goode in an all international back-three.

Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor make up the centre pairing, while Mako Vunipola starts at loosehead prop, with Schalk Brits and Samoan international tighthead James Johnston joining the 2013 in the front row.

Steve Borthwick captains the side with Mouritz Botha partnering the joint all-time Aviva Premiership record caps holder in the second row.

Billy Vunipola makes a welcome return to action in the back row. Rhe England international starts at blindside flanker, with Namibian openside Jacques Burger wearing the number 7 jersey and Ernst Joubert packing down at number 8.

On the bench, Neil de Kock will make his 200th appearance for the club should he feature. Scotland captain Kelly Brown will bring up his half century of Heineken Cup appearances if he comes on.

Former Leinster and Ireland Under-20 lock Eoin Sheriff is one of Sarries’ reserve forwards, with the 25-year-old Wexford man hoping to add to his one previous Heineken Cup appearance against Zebre in December.

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

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Ricky Lutton, Iain Henderson, Stephen Ferris, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, Craig Gilroy.

SARACENS: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Duncan Taylor, Brad Barritt, David Strettle; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, James Johnston, Steve Borthwick (capt), Mouritz Botha, Billy Vunipola, Jacques Burger, Ernst Joubert.

Replacements: Jamie George, Richard Barrington, Matt Stevens, Eoin Sheriff, Kelly Brown, Neil de Kock, Charlie Hodgson, Chris Wyles.

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal, Cedric Marchat (both France)
Television Match Official: Eric Gauzins (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 8/13; Draw: 22/1; Saracens to win: 6/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Rory Best (Ulster) – “We have to be very careful that we play the game, not the occasion. It’s going to be a massive, massive game.

“It’s the first quarter-final here since 1999, new ground, splendid stadium, the complete redevelopment to accommodate 18,000 people, so it is going to be a big honour to play here in front of such a crowd.

“It’s going to be an emotional occasion. There will be an electric atmosphere and we have been making sure this week that we have everything right, every detail covered so that we can ride over that little bit emotion.

“All we have been doing all week is preparing for every eventuality when it comes to 6.30pm on match day. With that preparation comes confidence, and with the home crowd behind us, our momentum is going to be a key feature of this game.

“It’s knockout rugby now, if we lose this, there is no second leg to make up the points, you’re gone. So you have to play with that little bit of fear knowing that if you lose you’re out.

“On the other hand if you use that fear in the right way to do good things that will make us to go extra lengths to win.

“I would imagine Sarries have also done their homework on us, but also concentrated a lot of their own game. They are a good team and they will come with a game-plan, and obviously like any match you win matches by winning the battle up front.

“So, I expect them to try to physically impose themselves on us and try to win the game that way, so it is up to us to put them under pressure. That is something we didn’t do twelve months ago and we kind of left Twickenham without really firing a shot and thought we had let ourselves down.

“We didn’t show what an Ulster team and big games are all about. That should change on Saturday evening.”

Mako Vunipola (Saracens) – “We are feeling confident as a side and we are enjoying our rugby. We’re well placed in the league and had some good results leading up this weekend.

“Ulster are a quality side and have been for the last couple of years so there’s a lot to look out for.

“They have quality players all over and work extremely hard. I think their set piece is one of the best in this year’s competition.

“I can’t wait to experience Ravenhill. It’s one of the finest rugby stadiums and the crowd are very passionate. Ulster feed off that so we know that will make the job harder but we’re excited at the same time.”

Ulster: Path To The Quarters Video

Saracens: Path To The Quarters Video

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; (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; Won 22-19 away to Leicester Tigers; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 10-7 at home to the Ospreys; Won 14-12 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 38-8 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 26-13 at home to the Scarlets; Won 9-3 away to Edinburgh; Lost 28-23 away to Cardiff Blues

Saracens – (Aviva Premiership): Won 42-20 away to London Irish; Won 44-12 at home to Gloucester; Won 31-17 at home to Bath; Won 22-12 away to Harlequins; Won 19-12 at home to London Wasps; (Heineken Cup): Won 23-17 away to Connacht; Lost 17-16 at home to Toulouse; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 41-20 away to Northampton Saints; Won 40-3 at home to Newcastle Falcons; (LV= Cup): Won 24-21 away to London Wasps; Won 51-10 at home to the Scarlets; (Aviva Premiership): Won 16-9 away to Exeter Chiefs; Won 24-19 at home to Sale Sharks; (Heineken Cup): Won 39-10 away to Zebre; Won 64-3 at home to Zebre; (Aviva Premiership): Won 49-10 at home to Leicester Tigers; Won 26-8 away to Worcester Warriors; Won 29-8 away to Gloucester; (Heineken Cup): Lost 21-11 away to Toulouse; Won 64-6 at home to Connacht; (LV= Cup): Won 41-8 at home to Newcastle Falcons; Lost 20-16 away to Northampton Saints; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 22-13 at home to London Irish; Won 15-10 away to Sale Sharks; Won 23-10 at home to Exeter Chiefs; (LV= Cup semi-final): Lost 26-7 away to Northampton Saints; (Aviva Premiership): Won 39-17 at home to Harlequins; Won 32-20 away to London Wasps

Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 55; Tries: Luke Marshall 3; Saracens – Points: Owen Farrell 51; Tries: Chris Ashton 7

Previous European Meetings: 5

Saturday, April 6, 2013 – Quarter-final – Saracens 27 Ulster 16, Twickenham
Saturday, December 17, 2005 – Pool 4 – Saracens 18 Ulster 10, Vicarage Road
Friday, December 9, 2005 – Pool 4 – Ulster 19 Saracens 10, Ravenhill
Friday, January 19, 2001 – Pool 3 – Ulster 13 Saracens 21, Ravenhill
Sunday, October 15, 2000 – Pool 3 – Saracens 55 Ulster 25, Vicarage Road

Match Facts & Figures –

– Saracens were the top point scorers from the pool stages, notching up 217 in their six games

– Kelly Brown made more tackles without missing one (56) than any other player in the pool stages

– Ulster conceded just four tries in the pool stages, the joint-fewest of any team, along with Toulouse

– Ulster have won 17 of their last 18 home games in the Heineken Cup, the only defeat coming against Northampton Saints in a pool fixture last season

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

Saracens –
2012/13: Reached the semi-finals
2011/12: Reached the quarter-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2007/08: Reached the semi-finals
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 4