Ulster resume their Magners League campaign on Friday night, determined to banish memories of their second half collapse against Biarritz last weekend. A victory for Brian McLaughlin’s men at Murrayfield would see them complete a season’s double over Edinburgh.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, October 22
EDINBURGH (9th) v ULSTER (3rd), Murrayfield, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC ALBA)
Team News: Adam D’Arcy, Mark McCrea, Paddy McAllister, Dan Tuohy and Chris Henry have been drafted into the Ulster team for Friday’s Magners League encounter with Edinburgh.
Injuries and the IRFU’s player management programme means that Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has made a mix of personnel and positional changes to the team that lost to Biarritz Olympique last Sunday.
There are five changes in personnel, with D’Arcy and McCrea added to the backs, and McAllister, Tuohy and Henry selected in the forwards.
With Simon Danielli ruled out by a shoulder injury, David McIlwaine moves from full-back to the left wing and Australian D’Arcy takes over in the number 15 jersey.
McCrea will make his first competitive start of the season on the right wing, with Andrew Trimble joining Ian Whitten in the centre and Ian Humphreys making way for Paddy Wallace at out-half.
The 21-year-old McAllister is set for his first Magners League start, after four run-outs as a replacement. He comes in for Tom Court at loosehead prop.
Tuohy partners Johann Muller in the second row, and the rotation of the back rowers continues – Henry starting ahead of Pedrie Wannenburg, with Stephen Ferris moving to the blindside flank.
Looking forward to his side’s return to Magners League action, Ulster captain Rory Best said: “Murayfield is a very, very difficult place to go, and Edinburgh are a very dangerous team.
“Over the years, we’ve done alright there without being fantastic. We’d a good bonus point win there last season when our backs were against the wall, so we have no fear going there.
“But, at the same time, we have to respect Edinburgh for what they are and that’s a very good rugby team.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh will seek their third straight Magners League win, and their second success on the bounce against Irish opposition, when Ulster visit Murrayfield.
Rob Moffat’s charges saw off Leinster 32-24 in their last home Magners League encounter, and then beat Aironi 10-9 in Lombardy the following week.
As well as offering Edinburgh the chance to maintain this impressive domestic form, Friday’s game will be an opportunity to avenge the 29-21 defeat sustained the last time these teams clashed, at Ravenhill last month.
Head coach Moffat has made three changes to the side that started last Saturday’s exciting Heineken Cup match against Northampton Saints.
Two of the switches come in the forwards, with hooker Andrew Kelly and flanker Ross Rennie included in the starting line-up and Ross Ford and Roddy Grant both rested. In Grant’s absence, full-back Chris Paterson will captain the side.
Greig Laidlaw, who has been called up to the Scotland squad for the autumn internationals, will make his second start of the season.
Mike Blair was named in the original Edinburgh team, but has been suffering from a bug and will begin Friday’s game on the replacements bench.
On the Edinburgh bench, there are places for Finlay Gillies, the Heriot’s hooker who received the 2010 Macphail Scholarship, and fellow Scottish Rugby Elite Development player, lock Grant Gilchrist.
Scott Newlands, who recently returned with the Scotland Sevens squad from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, could also be sprung from the bench.
EDINBURGH: Chris Paterson (capt); Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns, James King, Tim Visser; David Blair, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Jacobsen, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Fraser McKenzie, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Netani Talei.
Replacements: Finlay Gillies, Kyle Traynor, David Young, Grant Gilchrist, Scott Newlands, Mike Blair, Alex Grove, Mark Robertson.
ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Mark McCrea, Andrew Trimble, Ian Whitten, David McIlwaine; Paddy Wallace, Ruan Pienaar; Paddy McAllister, Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Tom Court, Bryan Young, Ryan Caldwell, Pedrie Wannenburg, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Nevin Spence.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Andy Ireland, James Matthew (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 8/15; Draw: 19/1; Ulster to win: 6/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Adam D’Arcy (Ulster) – “Biarritz, especially in the second half, really upped the tempo and were very clinical in their transition.
“They were a very fast and very physical team who got off the line well and really took their opportunities. Despite the defeat, it was a really good experience (for me personally).
“There was a great atmosphere with a lot of Ulster supporters having come over, which we really appreciated.
“The guys have said that there’s a strange atmosphere at Murrayfield because it’s a big international stadium that’s practically empty (for some of Edinburgh’s games).
“But I’m looking forward to the chance to play at another good ground like that and I don’t think the crowd thing will matter to me. When you’re playing you try to shut the crowd out anyway and just concentrate on playing the game.
“We’re really keen to make amends for that disappointing second half against Biarritz and that’s the beauty of the game – you get the chance to do that within a week, or in this case even sooner.
“In terms of our physical condition, we did a lot in pre-season and we’ve done enough in the past six weeks for that not to be a problem. Physically we’re in good shape.
“After what happened on Sunday everybody’s really keen to get back out there, so I think the shorter than usual turnaround could actually work in our favour. We’re going over there with a good attitude.
“Biarritz was just a disappointing 40 minutes, that’s all. So there’s no need for us to change structurally or anything like that.
“We don’t have to do anything drastic. A slight attitude adjustment and bounce back – that’s as we see it.”
Rob Moffat (Edinburgh) – “There was a lot to be pleased about in our display (against Northampton) last Saturday, but we said all along that getting the win was what counted above all else.
“The challenge this week is pretty clear – keep performing positively, keep trying to hurt the opposition, and make sure we maintain that edge from first to last.
“We lost a bit of momentum in the second half last week, and Ulster are the sort of team who will capitalise on any drop-off in our performance.
“The boys know we’ll need to be sharp all night on Friday, and after the Leinster and Aironi wins in the league, they’re keen to keep that sequence going.
“Both Ross (Ford) and Roddy (Grant) have played their part in a number of really tough battles in the last few weeks, and even though they’re the sort of guys who want to be out there week in, week out, it’s my job to manage the squad and make sure we spread the load.
“Ned (Andrew Kelly) has done well when he’s come off the bench this season, and he’s been pushing hard for a place in the team. He’s got a chance now to remind everyone of what he can do, and I’m looking forward to seeing him take it.
“Ross (Rennie) wasn’t quite ready last Saturday, but he’s trained well this week and is raring to go. He’s just the type of player you want on your side against a team like Ulster – we’ll all be up for the battle.
“Mike (Blair) has been struggling with a bug in the last couple of days. He’s fit enough to play, but as a precaution he’ll be on the bench. Greig has been putting his hand up for a while now and deserves his opportunity.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Edinburgh – Points: Chris Paterson 34; Tries: Tim Visser 5; Ulster – Points: Niall O’Connor 51; Tries: Darren Cave 2
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, November 30, 2007 – Ulster 14 Edinburgh 20, Ravenhill
Friday, October 3, 2008 – Ulster 13 Edinburgh 9, Ravenhill
Friday, January 9, 2009 – Edinburgh 21 Ulster 15, Murrayfield
Fiday, September 18, 2009 – Ulster 13 Edinburgh 16, Ravenhill
Sunday, April 25, 2010 – Edinburgh 25 Ulster 37, Murrayfield
Friday, September 17, 2010 – Ulster 29 Edinburgh 21, Ravenhill
– Edinburgh have won their last two games in the Magners League, at home to Leinster and away to Aironi Rugby
– However, the Scottish side have won just once at Murrayfield in their last four matches in all competitions
– Ulster’s eight-match unbeaten run came to an end in Biarritz last Sunday, but in the Magners League the Ulstermen, the league’s only remaining unbeaten team, have not lost since a visit to Glasgow on April 16
– The two teams have already met this season with Ulster triumphing 29-21 at Ravenhill on September 17. Ulster have now won their last three encounters with Edinburgh in all competitions