Dan McFarland has made five changes after Ulster suffered their heaviest ever defeat at the hands of Munster ahead of the challenge of Connacht at the Kingspan Stadium tomorrow night.
In the pack, Rory Best makes his first appearance of the season at hooker while Andy Warwick is retained after reaching the 100 club last time out. The second row partnership remains unchanged as Iain Henderson is cleared fit to play after concussion cut short is involvement in Limerick. The only change in the back row sees Marcell Coetzee come in for Jean Deysel at number 8. Matthew Rea and Nick Timoney continue as Ulster’s flankers.
Angus Curtis moves to the 13 jersey after Darren Cave picked up a thumb injury last week. He is partnered by Stuart McCloskey in the centre. John Cooney and Billy Burns remain as the chosen half back pairing however Johnny McPhillips is promoted to the bench after Michael Lowry picked up an injury. Craig Gilroy misses the match with Jacob Stockdale replacing him. Angus Kernohan moves to the right wing with Ireland’s Grand Slam hero slotting in on his familiar left wing.
Connacht stumbled to a disappointing 6th finish in Conference A last year with 39 points – just three ahead of the pool’s bottom side, Zebre. Kieran Keane departed in the off-season with Andy Friend taking the head coach role in Galway. Since then they have fared better with an unfortunate loss against last season’s runaway winners of Conference A, Glasgow while they defeated a decent Scarlets side 33-20 in Galway. They have so far suffered two further losses against Edinburgh and Leinster with the latter being marked by a horrible red card for Dominic Robertson-McCoy who was very lucky to only be banned for six weeks.
However, with Ulster coming off the back of a thumping against Munster, tomorrow’s match represents their best chance of ending their voodoo on Ulster soil. It was confirmed midweek that Marcell Coetzee, Darren Cave and Iain Henderson were the latest names to be added to an injury list containing the likes of Rob Herring, Luke Marshall, Louis Ludik, Jordi Murphy and Henry Speight.
We’re going to see what this Ulster side is made of tomorrow night. Last week’s backline finished with an average age of 23 and were taught a lesson by Munster’s internationals. With Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy in Connacht’s back three, they will fancy their chances if the visitors can get the ball into the channels. Jack Carty is one of the form out halves in the league so far and I expect his intelligence and decision making to play a part in the outcome of this match.
The FRU predicts: This match is about attitude. Having come off a record defeat this relatively young Ulster team face a big test against Connacht but I think Ulster will bounce back with a win. Ulster by 8 points.,
|Pete Nelson||15||Tiernan O’Halloran|
|Angus Kernohan||14||Niyi Adeolokun|
|Angus Curtis||13||Tom Farrell|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Bundee Aki|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||Matt Healy|
|Billy Burns||10||Jack Carty|
|John Cooney||9||Kieran Marmion|
|Andrew Warwick||1||Denis Buckley|
|Rory Best||2||Tom McCartney|
|Tom O’Toole||3||Finlay Bealham|
|Alan O’Connor||4||Ultan Dillane|
|Iain Henderson||5||Quinn Roux|
|Matthew Rea||6||Sean O’Brien|
|Nick Timoney||7||Jarrad Butler|
|Marcell Coetzee||8||Paul Boyle|
|Adam McBurney||16||Shane Delahunt|
|Eric O’Sullivan||17||Peter McCabe|
|Ross Kane||18||Conor Carey|
|Kieran Treadwell||19||James Cannon|
|Sean Reidy||20||Colby Faingaa|
|Dave Shanahan||21||Caolin Blade|
|Johnny McPhillips||22||Kyle Godwin|
|James Hume||23||Cian Kelleher|