Jump to main content


Magners Preview: Ulster v Scarlets

Magners Preview: Ulster v Scarlets

Ulster are on the cusp of putting together their best run of Magners League form since they were crowned champions at the end of the 2005/06 season. This is another ‘must win’ game, with the battle for the play-offs really heating up.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 1

ULSTER (3rd) v SCARLETS (6th), Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC 2 Wales)

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Team News: Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has named an experienced team to face the Scarlets in Friday night’s vital Magners League game.

BJ Botha and Ian Humphreys are drafted straight into the starting line-up after spells out injured.

Prop Botha (elbow) has not featured since the Heineken Cup match against Biarritz in January, while out-half Humphreys (hamstring) has not played since the end of last month.

Andrew Trimble also returns on the right wing after missing the last two games through injury, but flanker Stephen Ferris continues to be ruled out with a knee problem.

Rory Best takes over the captaincy from Johann Muller on his return to the team. The Ireland hooker appeared as a second half replacement against Glasgow Warriors last weekend and will start this time alongside Botha and Tom Court in an all-international front row.

In the back row, Willie Faloon gains a start at openside flanker in place of Chris Henry who drops to the replacements bench.

The backline has also been reshuffled as Ruan Pienaar, the late penalty hero in Glasgow, reverts to scrum half to allow Humphreys don the number 10 jersey.

Adam D’Arcy comes in at full-back as Simon Danielli moves to the left wing and youngster Craig Gilroy provides back-up on the bench. The other wing berth is occupied by Trimble, who replaces Conor Gaston.

Acknowledging the province’s recent run of five straight league wins, skipper Best said: “I’ve watched Munster for a few years now and that”s the thing about them, they’re never beaten until the last whistle.

“There’s no point ignoring what is very good about other teams and there’s no doubt Munster have that.

“It’s something that we’ve been trying to instil through Brian McLaughlin, ‘hold on a minute, the game isn’t finished until the final whistle’.

“Whereas in the past with Ulster teams, with five minutes to go and seven points down, not only do we not win the game, but we don’t even get a losing bonus point.”

Meanwhile, the Scarlets travel to Ravenhill with just five points separating themselves and Ulster in the Magners League table.

This crucial clash comes at the end of a positive week for the Scarlets, with the region announcing that it has signed new contracts with 21 players.

There are four changes in personnel to the Scarlets team that started last Sunday’s 22-16 home victory over Benetton Treviso.

New Zealander Regan King returns at outside centre and George North’s absence due to a minor concussion sees Gareth Maule move to the right wing.

Tavis Knoyle, a try-scoring replacement against Treviso, takes over from dead leg victim Gareth Davies at scrum half.

Up front, Wales captain Matthew Rees returns from Six Nations duty at hooker, while Josh Turnbull rejoins the back row and Rob McCusker slots back into the second row.

Winger Sean Lamont misses out with a hamstring injury, but former Wallaby David Lyons is fit enough for bench duty.

Head coach Nigel Davies said: “It’s a big challenge, Ulster are a good side. We need to secure our own possession and then we have a game we can build.

“The contact area is always important against the Irish sides and our turnover rate has to be low because of our intent to play.

“It’s great to play an open and expansive style of rugby but we’re expecting our backs to be equally efficient in the contact areas as our forwards in order to get anything out of Friday’s game.”

ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Andrew Trimble, Nevin Spence, Paddy Wallace, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Willie Faloon, Pedrie Wannenburg.

Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Paddy McAllister, Declan Fitzpatrick, Tim Barker, Chris Henry, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Craig Gilroy.

SCARLETS: Rhys Priestland; Gareth Maule, Regan King, Jonathan Davies, Morgan Stoddart; Stephen Jones, Tavis Knoyle; Iestyn Thomas, Matthew Rees (capt), Rhys Thomas, Lou Reed, Rob McCusker, Josh Turnbull, Johnathan Edwards, Ben Morgan.

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rhodri Jones, Peter Edwards, Aaron Shingler, David Lyons, Martin Roberts, Daniel Evans, Scott Williams.

Referee: Graham Knox (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: John Carvill, Barry O’Keefe (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 4/11; Draw: 20/1; Scarlets to win: 21/10

Pre-Match Quotes: Rory Best (Ulster) – “The Scarlets are coming here looking for a win to keep them in the hunt. We need the win to keep us in the position we currently are.

“It is a good place to be, but we want to push on and make sure we are in that top-four come the end of the season.

“We have the belief in what we are doing. In the past there was hope – probably more blind hope – but over the last 18 months we feel it is going the right way.

“And we want that to continue. We know the results have not always shown that, but two or three years ago, maybe even last season, we would have lost the games we are winning in the closing stage.

“The Scarlets are a good side and will give us a good test. They will challenge our defence and we want them to test us so we will see if our defensive line is right.

“When we have the ball we also have to play rugby against them. Given where we are at the minute, it would be a real shame if we did not crack on and get the win we need that would put us on the brink of finishing in a play-off position.”

Matthew Rees (Scarlets) – “We put ourselves in a great position at the beginning of the season, we have played well in our home games – we made a statement and put ourselves in a very good position.

“A couple of games recently haven’t gone our way but now we have to concentrate on the remainder of the season.

“It’s a tough ask to get a result (in Belfast), but we have our best team out and we know Ulster will also be looking forward to a Heineken Cup quarter-final.

“Reaching the play-offs is in our hands – we have to win our four remaining games starting with Friday night.

“We’re in a dog-fight now with the other teams around us. We got the victory against Benetton Treviso last weekend, it wasn’t the best of games but we have put things right this week.

“The conditions at Ravenhill are going to be tricky, it will be an arm wrestle early on and we have to take the game to them.

“It all starts up front and delivering a set piece for our back-line to play off, and we know we’ve got some great players in our back-line.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Ulster – Points: Ruan Pienaar 102; Tries: Craig Gilroy 7; Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 142; Tries: Jonathan Davies 8


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
Friday, February 18, 2011 – Scarlets 16 Ulster 18, Parc y Scarlets


– Ulster and Munster are the form teams in the Magners League, having both gained 22 league points from their last six matches

– The Ulstermen have won their last five Magners League games, but have not won six in-a-row in the competition since they lifted the title in the 2005/06 season

– The Scarlets have lost their last four away games in all competitions, since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield on January 8

– The Welshmen are winless in their last five games against Irish provinces, and have not won in Ireland since a trip to Connacht in January 2009

– Ulster won 18-16 at Parc y Scarlets when the two teams met on February 18, but have never managed to achieve a season’s double over the Scarlets