Ulster are boosted with the return of Iain Henderson, Will Addison and Rory Best to the starting line up as the teams are announced for the first of back to back games against Scarlets in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Best is joined in the front row by Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore while Alan O’Connor picked up an ankle injury in the win over Cardiff at the weekend and does not feature. Kieran Treadwell partners Henderson in the second row. The back row remains unchanged from the weekend with Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee listed at 6, 7 and eight respectively.
John Cooney and Billy Burns continue as the half back partnership with Dave Shanahan and Johnny McPhillips on the bench. Will Addison returns to the outside centre channel alongside Stuart McCloskey while Louis Ludik moves to full back. Henry Speight starts on the right wing while Jacob Stockdale starts on the left.
With two losses in their opening games including a home defeat against Racing 92, Scarlets’ hopes of progressing are dangling by a thread however they wont give up as they demonstrated in the competition last season. The return of James Davies gives them a huge boost at the breakdown and poses a massive test for Ulster’s back row.
Scarlets are the only opposition that Ulster have a 100% lineout completion rate having won all 13 on the opening day of the Guinness PRO14 season and 10/10 in Parc-y-Scarlets two weeks ago. In Ulster’s 15-13 win, Iain Henderson was a nuisance at the lineout and managed to make two steals. While it’s been a problem area this season, Scarlets haven’t contested many lineouts in the two matches so far however I suspect that might change with the inclusion of Davies.
It’s a big test for Eric O’Sullivan who makes his first European start in his debut season. He faces Samson Lee a 38-capped Welsh international and veteran of over 100 appearances for the region at only 26 years of age. Any kind of parity would give Ulster a boost as I’m sure this is an area that Scarlets will target.
The experience of John Cooney, Rory Best and Iain Henderson was missing from the match two weeks ago and I’m sure they will have a big say in the outcome of tomorrow’s game. Ulster struggled to get their hands on the ball in opposition half and some bad decisions compounded misery early in the second half. Also, Will Addison’s inclusion at outside centre is a massive boost. He’s defensively sound which is needed against a partnership of Fonotia and Davies.
The FRU predicts: It’s now 20 months since Ulster last won on Welsh soil, and with Scarlets welcoming back a few key players, I think this run could be extended. They’re an excellent team at the minute and Ulster have struggled to pick up losing bonus points on the road so I’m tipping them to win this contest by ten points.
|Johnny McNicholl||15||Louis Ludik|
|Tom Prydie||14||Henry Speight|
|Jonathan Davies||13||Will Addison|
|Kieron Fonotia||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|Steff Evans||11||Jacob Stockdale|
|Rhys Patchell||10||Billy Burns|
|Gareth Davies||9||John Cooney|
|Rob Evans||1||Eric O’Sullivan|
|Ken Owens||2||Rory Best|
|Samson Lee||3||Marty Moore|
|Lewis Rawlins||4||Iain Henderson|
|David Bulbring||5||Kieran Treadwell|
|Will Boyde||6||Sean Reidy|
|James Davies||7||Jordi Murphy|
|Uzair Cassiem||8||Marcell Coetzee|
|Ryan Elias||16||Rob Herring|
|Wyn Jones||17||Kyle McCall|
|Werner Kruger||18||Tom O’Toole|
|Steve Cummins||19||Matthew Rea|
|Dan Davis||20||Nick Timoney|
|Kieran Hardy||21||Dave Shanahan|
|Dan Jones||22||Johnny McPhillips|
|Hadleigh Parkes||23||Darren Cave|