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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Edinburgh v Ulster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Edinburgh v Ulster

Ulster have three of their key players back in the matchday squad for this visit to the home of Scottish rugby, with the fit-again Johann Muller and Jared Payne set to start against Edinburgh and joint top try scorer Nick Williams listed on the bench.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, March 22

EDINBURGH (10th) v ULSTER (2nd), Murrayfield, 7.30pm (live BBC NI Sport website/red button)

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Team News: Head coach Mark Anscombe has made seven changes to the Ulster team for Friday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

Regular captain Johann Muller is selected for the first time since damaging his groin against Zebre last month and he is joined in the second row by Lewis Stevenson.

Dan Tuohy has been named in the back row alongside Mike McComish and Robbie Diack, who have been retained from the side that drew with Benetton Treviso on March 1.

John Afoa has switched back to his regular tighthead prop position, with Tom Court at loosehead and Rob Herring starting at hooker.

Jared Payne, who has recovered from a groin strain, will line up at full-back for the first time since the beginning of January and is joined in the back-three by Andrew Trimble and Michael Allen.

New Ireland cap Paul Marshall is another returning player and he will be partnered at half-back by fellow international Paddy Jackson. Stuart Olding, who has touched down twice in his last two games for the province, will again combine with Darren Cave in midfield.

Nick Williams and Peter Nelson have returned from injury and are named among the replacements. They are joined on the bench by Niall Annett, Michael Heaney, Callum Black, Ali Birch and Ricky Andrew.

The Ulstermen have lost their lead at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table, and will be determined to get back to winning ways in a game that can be viewed via the BBC NI Sport website and the red button.

Meanwhile, Ulster back rower Iain Henderson suffered an injury to his left foot playing for Ireland against Italy in the RBS 6 Nations last Saturday.

Following a scan in Dublin on Sunday, he underwent an X-ray in Belfast. There it was confirmed that he has suffered soft tissue damage.

Henderson will continue to be monitored, but it is expected that he will make a return to rugby in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, interim head coach Stevie Scott has selected an Edinburgh side charged with sparking an end-of-season resurgence against Ulster.

Scott has made three changes to the pack for the Ulster clash, with international back rower Ross Rennie making a welcome return from the shoulder injury he sustained in Scotland’s match against New Zealand in November.

Netani Talei replaces the injured David Denton (knee) at number 8 and lock Grant Gilchrist comes back into the squad after making his international debut against France last weekend.

Both Scott and interim assistant coach Duncan Hodge have seen enough of promising young scrum half Sean Kennedy from his Scotland ‘A’ success and loan spell at Glasgow Warriors to hand the 21-year-old his Edinburgh debut. He will partner Piers Francis at half-back.

Ben Atiga returns to inside centre for his 10th appearance in the competition alongside Dougie Fife, who has been moved infield to accommodate Tom Brown on the left wing, with the back-three completed by Greig Tonks and Lee Jones.

Of note is the firepower named on the bench, with an all-international front row of Ross Ford, John Yapp and Geoff Cross ready to enter the fray as well as the ever threatening Tim Visser, who tops the league try-scoring charts this season with 11 tries.

EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Lee Jones, Dougie Fife, Ben Atiga, Tom Brown; Piers Francis, Sean Kennedy; Allan Jacobsen, Steven Lawrie, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox (capt), Stuart McInally, Ross Rennie, Netani Talei.

Replacements: Ross Ford, John Yapp, Geoff Cross, Perry Parker, Hamish Watson, Richie Rees, Harry Leonard, Tim Visser.

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Stuart Olding, Michael Allen; Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Mike McComish, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Niall Annett, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton, Nick Williams, Ali Birch, Michael Heaney, Ricky Andrew, Peter Nelson.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Changleng, Graeme Marshall (both Scotland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 13/8; Draw: 18/1; Ulster to win: 1/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Andrew Trimble (Ulster) – “If you look at the season I think we’re going great at the minute and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We’re playing really good rugby at the minute and we’re going well, it’s a lot of fun.

“We’ve a good shout of doing better than last year, which saw us get to the Heineken Cup final and I’m really looking forward to that challenge.

“Edinburgh is a tough place to go, Murrayfield is quite quiet and there’s not as lot of atmosphere and it puts you under a bit of pressure to develop that buzz yourself but hopefully we can get things right.

“Just around the corner and maybe in the back of our minds a little bit is the game against Leinster. There’s provincial rivalry and the intensity is going to be through the roof.

“You always raise your game a bit more and there’s probably a fear of losing to them more than a desire to win and that spurs you on that little bit more.

“And then we want to use that to go ahead into the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup, but we just want to get players back from the Six Nations and make sure we’ve got that buzz that we need.”

Stevie Scott (Edinburgh) – “The players’ reaction in training this week has been excellent. It’s been a tough season but their commitment to improving and getting results for the club and its fans has been superb.

“A lot of hard work has gone in this week but, importantly, the work done has also been of a very high standard. There’s a real will to do whatever it takes to get our results back on track.”

Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 79; Tries: Tim Visser 11; Ulster – Points: Ruan Pienaar 87; Tries: Andrew Trimble, Nick Williams 6 each


Sunday, April 25, 2010 – Edinburgh 25 Ulster 37, Murrayfield
Friday, September 17, 2010 – Ulster 29 Edinburgh 21, Ravenhill
Friday, October 22, 2010 – Edinburgh 21 Ulster 16, Murrayfield
Friday, January 6, 2012 – Edinburgh 20 Ulster 42, Murrayfield
Friday, March 2, 2012 – Ulster 38 Edinburgh 16, Ravenhill
Friday, November 2, 2012 – Ulster 45 Edinburgh 20, Ravenhill


– Edinburgh have lost their last eleven contests in all competitions since their 24-23 victory over Connacht at the Sportsground in the RaboDirect PRO12 on December 1 (that win represents their only one over an Irish province since September 2011)

– Edinburgh’s sole win at Murrayfield since September was against the Scarlets, 23-13, on November 23

– Ulster’s 29-all draw last time out with Benetton Treviso saw them drop off the top of the PRO12 table for the first time since September

– The Ulstermen’s recent form has seen them gain just 14 points from a possible 30 over their last six matches in the competition

– Edinburgh have won just one of their last eight fixtures with Ulster in all competitions since 2009: 21-16 at Murrayfield in the PRO12 in October 2010