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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Scarlets

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Scarlets

Ulster are at home to Welsh opposition for the second week running as they look to maintain their bid for a play-off place against Simon Easterby’s Scarlets side.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, February 14

ULSTER (3rd) v SCARLETS (6th), Ravenhill, 7.15pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC 2 Wales)

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* Please note: Tonight’s game between Ulster and Scarlets at Ravenhill will now kick off at 7.15pm, ten minutes later than originally scheduled.

Team News: Paddy Jackson, who scored his first try for Ireland last Saturday, has been released from international duty and will start for Ulster against the Scarlets at Ravenhill on Friday.

Jackson’s inclusion is one of four personnel and three positional changes to the side that defeated the Ospreys in Belfast last weekend.

Jared Payne moves from outside centre to full-back with Darren Cave reverting to his more familiar role in the number 13 jersey. Craig Gilroy continues on the right wing with Michael Allen keeping his place on the left.

Luke Marshall starts at inside centre alongside Cave, with Jackson at out-half and Ruan Pienaar, who played his 75th game for Ulster against the Ospreys, named at scrum half.

There are no changes to the front row where Tom Court, Rob Herring and John Afoa all start, while Johann Muller captains the side from the second row where Iain Henderson partners him.

Roger Wilson moves across the back row to blindside flanker, with Sean Doyle continuing at openside and Nick Williams coming in at number 8.

Robbie Diack and Ricky Andrew, who both started last time out, are named among the replacements.

Ulster have lost just once at Ravenhill in the past 12 months, however, the Scarlets beat Mark Anscombe’s men in Llanelli earlier in the season.

The round 14 match is sold out – the tenth game to be sold out at Ravenhill this season.

Meanwhile, a six-try 41-33 victory away to Benetton Treviso has gone a long way to building confidence and belief in the Scarlets squad ahead of their visit to Belfast.

Scarlets boss Simon Easterby has made only two changes to the team that took on Treviso last weekend.

Tighthead prop Samson Lee comes into the starting line-up for Jacobie Adriaanse, having been released back to the region from the Wales camp, and second row Johan Snyman replaces Richard Kelly who drops back to the replacements bench.

Number 8 Rob McCusker, who captains the Welsh region, will be looking to fire up his team to secure a performance and a result against a strong Ulster side.

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Michael Allen; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Iain Henderson, Roger Wilson, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Niall Annett, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton, Robbie Diack, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Rory Scholes, Ricky Andrew.

SCARLETS: Jordan Williams; Kristian Phillips, Gareth Maule, Adam Warren, Frazier Climo; Aled Thomas, Gareth Davies; Phil John, Kirby Myhill, Samson Lee, George Earle, Johan Snyman, Josh Turnbull, John Barclay, Rob McCusker (capt).

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Jacobie Adriaanse, Richard Kelly, Sione Timani, Rhodri Williams, Olly Barkley, Gareth Owen

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway, Gary Glennon (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

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

Pre-Match Quotes: Tom Court (Ulster) – “It (the Ospreys game) was probably one of the coldest and bleakest nights that I have played in in a good while. There’s not a lot to take from it other than we have to get things right for this week or there is a good chance that we will get beaten.

“The Scarlets will be coming over here with a sniff of being able to turn us over. They are a very professional team and I imagine that they will use their defeat to us in last season’s PRO12 play-off as an incentive to spur them on this week.

“They have been playing well – consistently well all year, especially through the forwards and they will be looking to get stuck in.

“We have had great momentum and we just have to try and keep that going. In the past we have had a lot of issues with the international period lag, where during the Six Nations and immediately after we have had a drop in form and it has taken us a few weeks to get back in the swing of things.

“Luckily we haven’t had as many injuries this year. It is up to the younger players this year to set up, to fill the void, to take their opportunities and to keep the momentum going.”

Simon Easterby (Scarlets) – “We’re going to Ravenhill under-strength but we have to be confident that we can back up what we did in Treviso last Friday.

“We’ve put into place some of the stuff we did well out here against them earlier in the season and Friday’s game is one that we can go and win.

“There are very few games that we can afford to drop points in. There are 45 points up for grabs and there are sides around us that will win and lose over the next three rounds. We’ve given ourselves a fighting chance with that victory last weekend.

“There’s a way of trying to beat Ulster and there’s a way of trying to stop them as well. We need to be as good as we’ve been when at our best this season to secure a victory.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 82; Tries: Michael Allen, Jared Payne, Darren Cave 3 each; Scarlets – Points: Rhys Priestland 51; Tries: Gareth Davies 6


Saturday, October 29, 2011 – Scarlets 24 Ulster 17, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, December 2, 2011 – Ulster 24 Scarlets 17, Ravenhill
Sunday, December 2, 2012 – Scarlets 12 Ulster 19, Parc y Scarlets
Friday, January 4, 2013 – Ulster 47 Scarlets 17, Ravenhill
Friday, May 10, 2013 – Semi-final – Ulster 28 Scarlets 17, Ravenhill
Saturday, November 2, 2013 – Scarlets 17 Ulster 9, Parc y Scarlets


– Ulster’s only defeat in their last ten matches in all competitions was to Leinster at the RDS in the RaboDirect PRO12 on December 28

– The Ulstermen have lost just once at Ravenhill in the past 12 months: 13-12 to Glasgow Warriors in the PRO12 in September

– The Scarlets’ 41-33 victory in Treviso last Saturday ended a four-match losing run in the PRO12, while the Welshmen’s only away success against an Irish province in their last seven trips came against Connacht in Galway in November

– The Scarlets won 17-9 when Ulster visited Parc y Scarlets in round 7 this season to end a four-game winning sequence by the Ulstermen against the Scarlets

– The Scarlets’ only previous victory at Ravenhill in the PRO12 was on September 5, 2008