Ulster are hoping to eradicate the penalties which proved so costly for them against the Ospreys as they pay the Dragons a visit in Newport, where Brian McLaughlin’s men were 20-13 winners last May.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 30
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (11th) v ULSTER (4th), Rodney Parade, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Wales)
Team News: Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has made three personnel changes and a positional switch to the starting line-up for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 match against the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Jared Payne picked up a dead leg in the loss to the Ospreys last Sunday, so Adam D’Arcy is promoted from the replacements bench to fill the vacant full-back role.
Ian Humphreys (shoulder) and Darren Cave (hamstring) have not recovered from their injuries in time and will play no part in this fixture.
After starting all of Ulster’s games so far, Andi Kyriacou has been kept in reserve for the trip to Newport, with Nigel Brady taking over as starting hooker.
Willie Faloon has been named at openside flanker, so Chris Henry moves around to number 8 and Robbie Diack drops to the bench.
Academy prop Kyle McCall is in line for his senior debut after being included on the bench. Ian Porter also returns to the matchday squad, following a rib injury, and is joined by Conor Gaston who will provide cover for the back-three.
Meanwhile, the Newport Gwent Dragons will have two new faces in the dressing room on Friday night when they take on visitors Ulster.
Springbok speedster Tonderai Chavhanga is set to start for the region on the right wing and the Premiership will be providing another regional debut as Bedwas tighthead prop Kieron Jenkins joins Pontypool’s Geraint O’Driscoll on the bench.
Head coach Darren Edwards said: “It’s been great to finally have Tondi in our ranks. It’s been a long process to get him here but the buzz he has created in the team is really encouraging.
“Not only does he have a speed that is well-documented but he has a great understanding of the game which will stand him in good stead.
“He is also very hard-working and has fitted into the team really well. Our dressing room cohesion is a vital part of rugby at the Dragons and Chavhanga will certainly add to that.”
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Martyn Thomas; Tonderai Chavhanga, Tom Riley, Ashley Smith, Mike Poole; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Nathan Williams, Tom Willis (capt), Nathan Buck, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Lewis Evans, Gavin Thomas, Andrew Coombs.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Kieron Jenkins, Darren Waters, Jevon Groves, Joe Bedford, Geraint O’Driscoll, Matthew Jones.
ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten; Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Declan Fitzpatrick, Nigel Brady, Jerry Cronin, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Willie Faloon, Chris Henry (capt).
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Kyle McCall, Adam Macklin, Tim Barker, Robbie Diack, Ian Porter, James McKinney, Conor Gaston.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Huw David (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Neil Ballard (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 10/11; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 10/11
Pre-Match Quotes: Dan Tuohy (Ulster) – “Sometimes having a game in a short turnaround time (five days) is a blessing because there’s no better way to eradicate things than get back out on the pitch.
“We’ve looked at the scrums but I don’t think there are any major problems with them. I think as a whole eight we’ve got to put our hands up and say it wasn’t a good enough performance (against the Ospreys).
“We’ve spoken about managing referees and managing penalty counts and managing the scrums and tinkering with things on the pitch. This is a game that we’re looking to right those wrongs.”
Darren Edwards (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “The injury problems in the front row, particularly at tighthead have given us a chance to bring in a couple of Premiership players this week to train with the region, and boost their own experience.
“As a region we want to concentrate on developing Welsh players both through our age grade set-up but also through the Premiership. Dan Way played possibly his best rugby ever over in Connacht last week and is another example of the talent we have within our region.
“Obviously there will be teething problems as these new guys get their first few games under their belts but by giving these guys the opportunity now we are potentially building a whole team of (Toby) Faletau and (Dan) Lydiates for the seasons to come at Rodney Parade.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Jason Tovey 37; Tries: Jason Tovey, Tom Riley, Andrew Coombs, Nathan Williams 1 each; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 30; Tries: Darren Cave 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Thursday, March 18, 2010 – Ulster 25 Newport Gwent Dragons 23, Ravenhill
Friday, May 6, 2011 – Newport Gwent Dragons 13 Ulster 20, Rodney Parade
– The Newport Gwent Dragons have won just once in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season, claiming a 23-14 victory at home to Aironi in round 3
– The Dragons’ only reversal at Rodney Parade in their last five matches in this competition was a 20-13 loss to Ulster last May
– Ulster’s 100% winning start to the RaboDirect PRO12 ended abruptly last Sunday at the Ospreys. Ulster visit Wales for a second successive week and have won on two of their last three visits to the Principality
– The Dragons are winless against Ulster since their 23-6 victory at Rodney Parade on September 6, 2009
– Ulster have won on three of their eight previous visits to Rodney Parade in league action