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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

Ulster will come up against a familiar face in former head coach Alan Solomons tonight when they look to get back on track in the RaboDirect PRO12 against Scottish visitors Edinburgh.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, November 22

ULSTER (5th) v EDINBURGH (9th), Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC ALBA)

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Team News: Ireland internationals Craig Gilroy and Iain Henderson have recovered from injury and have been named in Mark Anscombe’s starting line-up for the game against Edinburgh at Ravenhill.

The fit-again Gilroy starts at full-back alongside Andrew Trimble and Michael Allen in the back-three, as the province return to RaboDirect PRO12 action.

Luke Marshall and Darren Cave have both been released by Ireland and start in the centre with James McKinney and Paul Marshall selected at half-back.

Callum Black, Rob Herring and John Afoa are named in an unchanged front row, with Lewis Stevenson and the returning Henderson starting in the second row.

Robbie Diack captains Ulster for the first time and is selected at blindside flanker. Sean Doyle, who was man-of-the-match for the Ravens against Connacht Eagles last Friday, is picked at openside flanker and Nick Williams starts at bumber 8.

Ireland internationals Tom Court, Dan Tuohy and Roger Wilson are named on a strong replacements bench which also includes Niall Annett, Ricky Lutton, Ian Porter, Peter Nelson and Ricky Andrew.

Commenting on this opportunity to captain Ulster for the first time, Diack said: “It was a bit of a shock when Mark (Anscombe) called out the team and I was captain, but it is a tremendous honour.

“I am hugely excited to be leading out such a talented bunch of guys and hopefully we can get the win.”

* Nick Williams and Ian Porter have been ruled out of this evening’s match against Edinburgh after they both picked up injuries in training.

Williams suffered a recurrence of the calf injury that he sustained last month, while Porter is out with a shoulder injury. As a result, Roger Wilson is promoted from the bench to the starting line-up with Mike McComish now named as a replacement.

With Michael Heaney also unavailable due to injury (AC joint), Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy scrum half David Shanahan is named as one of the replacements. The Ireland Under-20 international is in line to make his first appearance for the senior Ulster side if called upon.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has made two changes to the side that will run out against Ulster in Belfast.

The match is the first time the South African has faced the province he successfully coached for three seasons (2001 to 2004) since moving to Edinburgh in August from Super Rugby outfit Southern Kings.

Second row Ollie Atkins is handed his first start in the place of Grant Gilchrist, who is starting for Scotland in Saturday’s game against Australia, while scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne comes in for the injured Sean Kennedy (knee), with Grayson Hart poised to make his debut from the bench.

Ben Toolis could also come on to make his debut as replacement lock, while full-back/winger Tom Brown returns to the squad for the first time since injuring his ankle in a pre-season clash with Newcastle Falcons in August.

ULSTER: Craig Gilroy; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Michael Allen; James McKinney, Paul Marshall; Callum Black, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Lewis Stevenson, Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack (capt), Sean Doyle, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Niall Annett, Tom Court, Ricky Lutton, Dan Tuohy, Mike McComish, David Shanahan, Peter Nelson, Ricky Andrew.

EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Dougie Fife, Joaquin Dominguez, Ben Atiga, Jack Cuthbert; Harry Leonard, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Wicus Blaauw, Aleki Lutui, WP Nel, Ollie Atkins, Izak van der Westhuizen, Tomas Leonardi, Roddy Grant (capt), Cornell du Preez.

Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Robin Hislop, Geoff Cross, Ben Toolis, Ross Rennie, Grayson Hart, Sam Beard, Tom Brown.

Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway, Kevin Beggs (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 1/16; Draw: 33/1; Edinburgh to win: 7/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Mark Anscombe (Ulster) – “It (the 17-9 loss to the Scarlets) was disappointing and it wasn’t acceptable. It was a below power performance but what we have got to do is bounce back from that.

“We have not made excuses for what happened. We have addressed the things we needed to as a team and an organisation and now we have to make sure we do not repeat what happened.

“Edinburgh have got some good footballers in their team. We have to respect that, but the thing we have got to do is make sure we execute the things we’ve been talking about and the game that we want to play on Friday night.”

Alan Solomons (Edinburgh) – “I’m certainly looking forward to going back to Ravenhill. I’ve got very fond memories of Ulster and haven’t been there for a number of years, so I’m really looking forward to it.

“Away fixtures in the RaboDirect PRO12 are always tough and Ulster are a side that have been built over 10 or 12 years to become one of the top sides in Europe.

“They were in the PRO12 final last year, the Heineken Cup final the year before that and have ambitions to win these competitions. We are a side that is rebuilding and are at a different place at this point.

“For me, this is going to be a really tough fixture but presents these players with an opportunity to build on their performance against Zebre in a tougher fixture, against a highly ranked side at a very tough venue.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 62; Tries: Michael Allen 3; Edinburgh – Points: Harry Leonard 40; Tries: TIm Visser, Greig Tonks, WP Nel 2 each


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
Friday, March 22, 2013 – Edinburgh 14 Ulster 8, Murrayfield


– Ulster’s six-match winning run in all competitions ended when they visited the Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 on November 2

– The Ulstermen’s only defeat at Ravenhill since February was 13-12 to Glasgow Warriors on September 13, but Ulster have lost their last three encounters with Scottish opponents

– Edinburgh have won their last two PRO12 matches against Benetton Treviso and Zebre with both games being played at Murrayfield

– The Scottish outfit have won only once on the road since last December: 9-7 at Zebre in March

– Edinburgh have beaten an Irish province on their own soil just once since 2009: 24-23 against Connacht in Galway in December 2012

– Each side won its respective home game when they met in the PRO12 last season, while Edinburgh have not been victorious in Belfast since September 2009