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Magners Preview: Ulster v Newport Gwent Dragons

Magners Preview: Ulster v Newport Gwent Dragons

In this rescheduled round 10 clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons, Ulster will chase a victory which would vault them back into the top-four of the Magners League.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, March 18

ULSTER (5th) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (8th), Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

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Team News: Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has named a youthful side to take on the Newport Gwent Dragons in the Magners League at Ravenhill on Friday.

Winger Conor Gaston is the latest Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy player to be given his debut, starting on the right wing in place of the Ireland-tied Andrew Trimble.

Gaston has been in scintillating form for Dungannon in the Ulster Bank League and has also impressed for the Ulster Ravens side in recent months.

The 20-year-old has been named in a back-line that also includes current Ireland Under-20 internationals Paddy Jackson, Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall and Ireland Wolfhounds starlet Nevin Spence.

Luke Marshall returns to inside centre as Paddy Wallace is on Six Nations duty, while Jackson’s inclusion at out-half sees Ruan Pienaar move back to his more familiar scrum half position with Paul Marshall dropping to the bench.

In the front row, Andi Kyriacou and Declan Fitzpatrick come in for Nigel Brady and Tom Court respectively.

The other change in the pack sees Robbie Diack pack down at number 8 in place of Pedrie Wannenburg. Stand-in captain Johann Muller continues his second row partnership with Tim Barker.

The squad is boosted by the return from injury of lock Dan Tuohy and centre Darren Cave, who are listed amongst the replacements.

Meanwhile, Dragons interim head coach Darren Edwards has made two personnel changes to the team that lost 45-17 to Gloucester in last Sunday’s LV Cup semi-final.

Joe Bearman starts at Number 8 where he impressed against Munster, taking over from the highly-regarded Toby Faletau who drops to the replacements bench.

“We wanted to look after Toby this weekend. He only came back two weeks ago and has played 80 minutes against Munster and then another 80 against Gloucester, both of which were very full-on physical games,” explained Edwards.

“In addition, he’s been in training with Wales this week so the intensity would have been high.”

Adam Hughes comes in for Tom Riley at centre. Riley takes up a spot on a bench which also includes scrum half James Leadbeater who steps in for Jon Evans who is set to start for the Wales Under-20s on Friday.

“Adam really is a centre so we want to give him exposure there as well as on the wing. He had a very successful partnership with Pat Leach for Newport and it’s good to give them an opportunity to work together again.

“I think that Pat proved on the weekend that he deserves to be in the Dragons and his selection reflects that.”

ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Conor Gaston, Nevin Spence, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Paddy McAllister, Andi Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Tim Barker, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Jerry Cronin, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Tommy Seymour.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Martyn Thomas; Will Harries, Adam Hughes, Pat Leach, Aled Brew; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Phil Price, Lloyd Burns, Dan Way, Luke Charteris (capt), Adam Jones, Andrew Coombs, Lewis Evans, Joe Bearman.

Replacements: Steve Jones, Pat Palmer, Hugh Gustafson, Adam Brown, Toby Faletau, Tom Riley, James Leadbeater, Matthew Jones.

Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Eanna O’Dowd, Brian MacNeice (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 1/7; Draw: 25/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 9/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Johann Muller (Ulster) – “Everyone is excited and it is wonderful to see what a week’s break can do to a group of players. The training has been outstanding this week, everyone is upbeat and looking forward to a great game of rugby.

“This is the start of a really important six weeks for us, we need to build some momentum and we need to keep that Magners League dream alive.

“We want to get into the top-four and if we can get a positive result against the Dragons we’ll be right up there.

“Every game is almost like a semi-final or final for us now. If we want to get into the Magners League play-offs we’re going to have to win every week now, so if we take our eye off the ball (on Friday) we’re going to regret it a couple of weeks down the line.

“It’s important we play some good rugby to get the confidence up for the next six weeks lying ahead.

“It’s going to be tough because we haven’t beaten the Dragons in the last four or five outings and they are a bit of a bogey team to us, but it is a different team and a new squad of players.

“I said at the start of the season we’re not going to be great immediately and it would take time for us to bond, and the more we play together the easier it becomes. With the pack being settled now, it’s great that we get to know each other so well.”

Darren Edwards (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “The lesson for us from the defeat to Gloucester is to get a foothold in games. We’ve got to make sure we can stop momentum because when you play away, the home side puts a lot of pressure on you.

“We have got special players that can break a game but we are never going to get the ball to these guys if we don’t get the basics right. But I do genuinely think that we had to get exposed to a game like that on Sunday.

“I don’t think we were under any illusions about what we were going to face in Gloucester. And when you’re beaten, and beaten well, it’s just part of life and you’ve got to get on with it.

“It was a reality check but the good thing now is that we’ve got a lot to talk about to the players.

“We had a massive reflection on the game and off the back of that it’s been the best working week we’ve had. When things are going well players don’t tend to listen as much, but this week they are like sponges.

“I think that performance fuelled a lot of ambition and we are looking to capitalise on that now.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Ulster – Points: Ruan Pienaar 70; Tries: Craig Gilroy 7; Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Jason Tovey 96; Tries: Aled Brew 5


Saturday, October 6, 2007 – Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Ulster 11, Rodney Parade
Friday, February 15, 2008 – Ulster 38 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, Ravenhill
Friday, September 19, 2008 – Ulster 14 Newport Gwent Dragons 16, Ravenhill
Sunday, February 22, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 26 Ulster 16, Rodney Parade
Sunday, September 6, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 23 Ulster 6, Rodney Parade
Friday, February 19, 2010 – Ulster 22 Newport Gwent Dragons 22, Ravenhill


– This round 10 game was postponed due to snow at Ravenhill on December 3

– Ulster’s only defeat in their last four Magners League matches was a 23-22 loss at the Ospreys on February 13

– The Ulstermen have won their last four games at Ravenhill in all competitions. Ulster have won four of their last five encounters with opponents from Wales

– The Newport Gwent Dragons are without a victory in their last three matches in all competitions, but have won three of their last five Magners League games

– The Dragons have not won away from home since a trip to Aironi on February 20. The men of Gwent have won just once in Ireland since 2004, beating Ulster 16-14 in September 2008

– The Dragons are unbeaten in their last four clashes with the Ulstermen