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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

With Edinburgh in the midst of a poor run of results, Ulster are hotly tipped to notch their ninth straight win of the season when they host Michael Bradley’s men on Friday night.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, November 2

ULSTER (1st) v EDINBURGH (9th), Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC ALBA)

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Team News: Ricky Andrew will make his first start for Ulster after being named at full-back for the RaboDirect PRO12 match against Edinburgh at Ravenhill on Friday.

Andrew is one of nine personnel changes to the Ulster team that won away to the Dragons last weekend, with seven of those in the pack.

Head coach Mark Anscombe has named a relatively inexperienced bench which includes development prop Ricky Lutton, who will earn his first ever cap if he is used against the Scots.

With Andrew earning his second cap at full-back, Jared Payne has switched to outside centre – a position he occupied on a regular basis for his previous club Auckland Blues.

Chris Cochrane will make his fourth appearance for Ulster after being named on the right wing, with Craig Gilroy on the left flank.

The half-back pairing of Paul Marshall and Ruan Pienaar remains unchanged from last weekend, while Paddy Wallace will form the centre pairing with Payne.

Nigel Brady captains the team from hooker in an all-new front row which includes Callum Black and John Afoa. Lewis Stevenson retains his place in the second row where he is joined by Neil McComb.

Stephen Ferris has returned from a back injury to take his place at blindside flanker, with Mike McComish and Roger Wilson coming in at openside flanker and number 8 respectively.

Lutton is joined by fellow Belfast Harlequins front rowers Niall Annett and Adam Macklin on the replacements bench.

Robbie Diack will provide cover for second row and back row after recovering from a leg injury, with Nick Williams the other forward replacement.

Young Academy members Stuart Olding and Peter Nelson, along with Malone’s in-form out-half Niall O’Connor, are the back-line replacements.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh boss Michael Bradley has made five changes to his team for the trip across to Belfast in round 8.

Of the 12 Edinburgh players selected for Scotland’s upcoming Test matches, lock Grant Gilchrist, number 8 Stuart McInally and winger Lee Jones return to the starting line-up, while prop Allan Jacobsen continues his recovery from a hamstring injury on the bench.

With Greig Laidlaw unavailable, Sean Cox assumes the captaincy and starts on the blindside of a new-look back row, alongside openside Roddy Grant and McInally.

Robert McAlpine steps into the second row berth vacated by Cox to partner Gilchrist, while the front row trio of John Yapp, Andy Titterrell and Willem Nel remains unchanged.

Despite the international obligations, the club’s back-three has a familiar feel as Jones lines up alongside this season’s ever-present full-back Greig Tonks and winger Tom Brown.

John Houston returns to partner inside centre James King, who starts his first match of the season, and out-half Gregor Hunter replaces the injured Harry Leonard (groin) to link up with Chris Leck at half-back.

ULSTER: Ricky Andrew; Chris Cochrane, Jared Payne, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall; Callum Black, Nigel Brady (capt), John Afoa, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Stephen Ferris, Mike McComish, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Niall Annett, Ricky Lutton, Adam Macklin, Robbie Diack, Nick Williams, Niall O’Connor, Stuart Olding, Peter Nelson.

EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Lee Jones, John Houston, James King, Tom Brown; Gregor Hunter, Chris Leck; John Yapp, Andy Titterrell, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Robert McAlpine, Sean Cox (capt), Roddy Grant, Stuart McInally.

Replacements: Alun Walker, Allan Jacobsen, Lewis Niven, Izak van der Westhuizen, Hamish Watson, Richie Rees, Dougie Fife, Sep Visser.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Brian MacNeice (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 1/12; Draw: 28/1; Edinburgh to win: 13/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Neil Doak (Ulster) – “Some of the young guys coming in have played with the Ravens so the transition of coming into the RaboDirect PRO12 is not as great.

“It was no surprise to us that we were going to have quite a few players called away to the Irish training camp now, and hopefully again next year ahead of the Six Nations, so it is important to give others the opportunity.

“The challenge for us is to go out and perform and ensure that we finish this segment unbeaten. We certainly do not want to see the eight-match run come to an end at the last bit.

“There is no danger of complacency setting in because the guys know if they do not perform well, the shirt will not be there for them to wear the next time.”

Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) – “There’s a lot to play for in what is effectively a mini series of games coming up during the internationals. This is the squad we’ll be asking to win games.

“Because of the changes imposed on both Ulster and Edinburgh by availability, the game is up for grabs for whichever 15 players takes hold of it.

“It’s a great challenge for us. We’ve had a disappointing run of late and have spoken about how great a place it would be to end that run, so we’re approaching the game in a very positive frame of mind.

“Ravenhill has become a bit of a fortress so it’s a daunting task. They will be well supported and are on an unbeaten run but, from our point of view, we’re desperate to get a win. We’ve trained well this week and are very focused and driven to do a job in Ulster.”

Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 46; Tries: Nick Williams 4; Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 48; Tries: Tim Visser 9


Friday, September 18, 2009 – Ulster 13 Edinburgh 16, Ravenhill
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


– Unbeaten Ulster continue to set the pace at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12, and have a perfect played 8, won 8 record in all competitions this season

– The Ulstermen’s only loss at Ravenhill in the last 12 months was 16-8 to Leinster on April 20

– No Scottish side has won at Ravenhill since Glasgow Warriors were the visitors on December 4, 2009

– Edinburgh have slipped to six successive reversals in all competitions since beating Zebre 41-10 at Murrayfield on September 14

– The Scottish club have lost their last ten fixtures against Irish provinces, and have not been victorious in Ireland since a visit to Ulster back in September 2009

– Ulster’s only defeat in their last seven encounters with Edinburgh was 21-16 at Murrayfield on October 22, 2010