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Magners Preview: Scarlets v Ulster

Magners Preview: Scarlets v Ulster

Facing into their second successive Magners League trip to Wales, Ulster are determined to record a precious away victory in their drive to reach the competition’s play-offs.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, February 18

SCARLETS (4th) v ULSTER (6th), Parc y Scarlets, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC Wales)

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Team News: Head coach Brian McLaughlin has made six personnel changes to the Ulster team for Friday’s Magners League game against the Scarlets in Llanelli.

Ian Humphreys is a late withdrawal. He has suffered a recurrence of the shoulder injury he sustained against the Ospreys and will be replaced at out-half by Paddy Jackson.

Jackson has been playing for the Ireland Under-20s in recent weeks, and Friday’s game will mark his senior debut for the province.

Ireland’s Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace and Tom Court go straight into the starting line-up after being released from Six Nations duty.

Trimble takes up the right wing position, with youngster Craig Gilroy switching to the left wing and Scotland’s Simon Danielli dropping to the replacements bench.

The returning Court takes over in the front row from Bryan Young and Wallace joins the in-form Nevin Spence at centre.

The other notable inclusions are Thomas Anderson, who is preferred to Willie Faloon in the back row, and Andi Kyriacou gets the nod at hooker ahead of Nigel Brady.

Johann Muller will again captain the side in the continued absence of Rory Best, who is in camp with Ireland along with Stephen Ferris.

McLaughlin said: “It’s great to have Andrew, Paddy and Tom back. It’s great for them in that they’re getting an opportunity to prove themselves and underline their worth to Declan (Kidney) as he sits down to name his team to face Scotland.

“So, it’s a big game for them personally and it’s a huge game for us as a team.

“We’re going to the Scarlets, where Ulster have an appalling record, and we know we’ve got to play well if we’re to get points.”

Meanwhile, five international players will return to the Scarlets team for their key game against Ulster.

With two crucial home games back-to-back, wins on home soil against Ulster and next Thursday against Edinburgh would place them in a strong position in the race to reach the play-offs.

Back into the Scarlets’ starting line-up come new Wales caps Rhys Priestland (out-half) and Josh Turnbull (flanker) with Rob McCusker (flanker) and Tavis Knoyle (scrum half) released by Wales and Sean Lamont (winger) by Scotland.

Nigel Davies’ charges lost 17-13 to Connacht at the Sportsground last Saturday, but outscored Ulster by three tries to one (25-8) when the sides last met at Parc y Scarlets.

SCARLETS: Daniel Evans; Gareth Maule, Regan King, Scott Williams, Sean Lamont; Rhys Priestland, Martin Roberts; Iestyn Thomas (capt), Emyr Phillips, Rhys Thomas, Vernon Cooper, Lou Reed, Rob McCusker, Josh Turnbull, Ben Morgan.

Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Rhodri Jones, Simon Gardiner, Jonny Fa’amatuainu, Johnathan Edwards, Tavis Knoyle, Dan Newton, Joe Ajuwa.

ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Andrew Trimble, Nevin Spence, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Andi Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Tim Barker, Thomas Anderson, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Jerry Cronin, Bryan Young, Ryan Caldwell, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, Luke Marshall, Simon Danielli.

Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Huw Griffiths (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scarlets to win: 8/15; Draw: 18/1; Ulster to win: 6/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Paddy Wallace (Ulster) – “It’s nice to get back with Ulster and get some game-time this weekend. It’s a game we’ve got to win because we don’t want to get too far down the table at this stage of the season.

“If we do that, it’s going to be a long way back to get into that top-four. So, there’s a lot of motivation from that point of view.

“From a personal point of view, you want to put yourself forward for selection for the Scotland game, so you want to play well knowing that Declan’s going to be watching it.

“You don’t really have a chance to influence games too much from sitting on the bench. You’re more of a spectator. So certainly the French game last Sunday was very frustrating. But that’s sport.

“I’m glad to be there and to have some sort of involvement, but you want to be out there playing as well.

“We’re coming back into a run of games that you look at on paper and think if we were able to win all of those and consistently play to the standard we’ve managed to achieve this year that would push us up the table, get us into the top-four and keep us involved in two competitions at the end of April.

“Those were our goals at the start of the season. Our form this year has shown that we can go away from home and win in this competition.”

Nigel Davies (Scarlets) – “The spirit amongst the group this week has been really positive, there’s been a buzz around training at Parc y Scarlets with the added energy of some of boys who have been on international duty coming back.

“We know Ulster will be at pretty much at full strength and with a number of returning Irish squad members as well, will be throwing everything at this game.

“The league competition is very tight at the top end of the Magners and they have play-off ambitions like us and will be keen to knock us back.

“We have to target our home games, we’ve said that all season and our form here has improved from last season. These next two games are key to our ambitions in the league.

“It’s a huge month for us, if we can get some results now in these next three games, it will go a long way to deciding whether we are in with a chance of a play-off place.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 126; Tries: Jonathan Davies 7; Ulster – Points: Niall O’Connor 59; Tries: Craig Gilroy 5


Friday, October 12, 2007 – Scarlets 32 Ulster 8, Stradey Park
Friday, February 29, 2008 – Ulster 20 Scarlets 8, Ravenhill
Friday, September 5, 2008 – Ulster 9 Scarlets 16, Ravenhill
Saturday, May 16, 2009 – Scarlets 43 Ulster 17, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, October 2, 2009 – Ulster 45 Scarlets 24, Ravenhill
Friday, March 5, 2010 – Scarlets 25 Ulster 8, Parc y Scarlets


– The Scarlets have lost their last five matches in all competitions since beating Edinburgh 21-16 at Murrayfield in the Magners League on January 8

– The Welshmen’s only defeat at Parc y Scarlets in their last six encounters was a 21-18 loss to the Ospreys on October 2

– Ulster’s three match winning run in all competitions ended at the Ospreys last Sunday

– The Ulstermen have won on only one of their last four visits to Wales, beating the Cardiff Blues 37-15 on November 21

– The Scarlets have won three of their last four clashes with Ulster. The Ulstermen have never won in Llanelli