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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Glasgow Warriors

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Glasgow Warriors

After an unbeaten pre-season campaign, Ulster will get their first taste of competitive action under new head coach Mark Anscombe when they entertain Glasgow Warriors in the opening round of the RaboDirect PRO12.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, August 31

ULSTER v GLASGOW WARRIORS, Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC ALBA)

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Team News: Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe has handed competitive debuts to Sean Doyle, Nick Williams, Rob Herring and Michael Heaney for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 encounter with Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill.

Doyle and Williams will be joined in the back row by Robbie Diack, while Johann Muller continues as skipper in the engine room alongside Lewis Stevenson.

In the front row, Irish-qualified South African hooker Herring links up with props Callum Black and John Afoa. Should Ireland international Tom Court come off the bench at any stage during the game it will mark the prop’s 100th appearance for the province.

Behind the scrum, Heaney will start at scrum half where he forms a youthful half-back partnership with his former Methodist College school-mate Paddy Jackson. Luke Marshall and Chris Farrell will also combine in a new centre partnership.

Right winger Michael Allen will make only his second ever appearance for the province, while Craig Gilroy – the most-capped player in the selected Ulster back-line with 43 caps – will start on the opposite wing.

The back-three is completed by full-back Jared Payne who will play his first RaboDirect PRO12 game since he ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Cardiff Blues just over 11 months ago.

If Ulster will field a relatively inexperienced starting line-up, the same cannot be said of the eight replacements, who have over 500 caps between them. Included on the bench are Ireland squad members Court, Declan Fitzpatrick, Paul Marshall and Darren Cave.

Nigel Brady, Neil McComb and Mike McComish are the other forward replacements. If Niall O’Connor comes off the bench it will be the out-half’s first appearance for Ulster in 20 months after returning from a spell with Connacht.

Anscombe, taking charge of his first competitive game with Ulster, is expecting a tough challenge from the travelling Scots.

“They have named a strong side as we expected and they will provide a formidable test. They have brought a few internationals into the starting line-up and have another couple on the bench,” he said.

“We have a strong bench too but we will see how the game pans out. Our internationals on the bench haven’t played much rugby or had much contact but if we need to use them we will.

“I’m really excited about this game, hopefully we can start the season off with a good win.”

Meanwhile, new Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend and his players are determined to build on the positive form the side showed last term in reaching the league semi-finals for the second time in three years.

Henry Pyrgos and Duncan Weir team up in a lively half-back pairing, with experience behind the scrum being provided by the man with the most all-time Warriors appearances, centre Graeme Morrison, and returning winger Sean Lamont.

With Stuart Hogg nursing an ankle injury Peter Murchie gets the nod at full-back, while Tommy Seymour is rewarded for his productive shifts in the pre-season games with a start against his former team.

Up front, Gordon Reid, Finlay Gillies and Mike Cusack team up in the front row, with the back row seeing a welcome return of the Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Ryan Wilson combination.

The make-up of the Glasgow bench bodes well for game-changing options, with six capped players among the replacements – props Ryan Grant and Moray Low, hooker Dougie Hall, back rower John Barclay and half-backs Chris Cusiter and Ruaridh Jackson.

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Michael Allen, Chris Farrell, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Michael Heaney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Tom Court, Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Darren Cave.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Graeme Morrison, Sean Lamont; Duncan Weir, Henry Pyrgos; Gordon Reid, Finlay Gillies, Mike Cusack, Tom Ryder, Al Kellock (capt), Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson.

Replacements: Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Ryan Grant, James Eddie, John Barclay, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Peter Horne.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Brian MacNeice (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 4/7; Draw: 20/1; Glasgow Warriors to win: 6/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Callum Black (Ulster) – “I’ve had a good pre-season fitness-wise and I’ve been working on my game. It’s great to get three matches in-a-row under my belt.

“Getting a run of games is a big help so it’s up to me to make the most of that. You grow as a player the more you play. If you’re in the side week in, week out, you get more familiar with the players around you and you gel in the team.

“But I know I’ve got a lot to work on going into the start of the competitive season. The three games I’ve had have been great, I’ve had things to work on every week and I’ve enjoyed that.

“With Ulster you’re talking about international class props. Declan (Fitzpatrick), who played for Ireland against the All Blacks in the summer, started against Newcastle and then John (Afoa), a World Cup winner last year, came on. We learn from those we play beside so it’s great to have guys like that around you.”

Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – “We had our own stuff to concentrate on last year, making sure we progressed as far as we could. There was so much to take (out of it) for Glasgow and so much buzz around the club that, while you have your small jealousies, I was enjoying being a Warrior and I wasn’t looking back (at Ulster) with any sort of regret.

“I believe 100% that we can be as successful (as Ulster). Ulster, a few years ago, were going through the same redevelopment stage, bringing players in and changing the ground and refunding.

“Glasgow obviously started doing that last year, with players of the quality we’ve brought in last year and this year, not to mention all the youngsters we’re bringing through.

“We’re now able to keep the talent we have and attract talent from all over the globe which is the biggest statement we can possibly make.”


Friday, December 4, 2009 – Ulster 13 Glasgow Warriors 25, Ravenhill
Friday, April 16, 2010 – Glasgow Warriors 25 Ulster 18, Firhill Stadium
Friday, October 1, 2010 – Ulster 19 Glasgow Warriors 17, Ravenhill
Friday, March 25, 2011 – Glasgow Warriors 19 Ulster 22, Firhill Stadium
Friday, September 2, 2011 – Ulster 28 Glasgow Warriors 14, Ravenhill
Friday, November 25, 2011 – Glasgow Warriors 17 Ulster 9, Firhill Stadium


– Ulster begin the season with a home game for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, and beat Glasgow 28-14 at Ravenhill in round one last season

– Ulster finished off last season’s RaboDirect PRO12 with three successive defeats, all to their three fellow Irish provinces. But the Ulstermen have won five of their last six clashes with Scottish opponents

– Glasgow Warriors have won five of their last six regular season encounters in the RaboDirect PRO12, but have been triumphant just once in Ireland since 2009, winning 23-19 at Leinster in September 2011

– The two encounters between the teams last season were both won by the home side on the day, whilst the Warriors’ most recent victory at Ravenhill was in December 2009