The first inter-provincial derby of the season is upon us and Dan McFarland has named a strong panel for the trip down to Thomond Park to take on Munster.
Ulster have had rotten lot in Limerick in recent seasons with them shipping a record 64-7 defeat last season. They’ve not travelled away from home and won an interpro match since their 10-3 Boxing Day win against Connacht in 2015.
This is a chance for Ulster to right a few wrongs after last season’s result and we’ll have a clear indication as to where the province lie in respect to their rivals. Ulster are boosted with Marty Moore, Jordi Murphy and Jacob Stockdale returning to the starting lineup.
Iain Henderson and Marcell Coetzee are the only absentees from what is otherwise a full strength side. Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Marty Moore form a international quality front row and one that is likely to be Ulster’s first choice for Europe. Alan O’Connor and Sam Carter are the second row partners while Jordi Murphy returns to the back row alongside Sean Reidy and Nick Timoney.
The big call in the side is to start Angus Curtis at ten. It’s his first competitive start in that position for the senior side but he’s plenty of playmaking ability as evidenced in the Celtic Cup campaign this year. Obviously there will be a massive step up in quality but he’s got a wealth of experience on his outside and inside to see him through.
John Cooney partners Curtis at half back while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall are Ulster’s centre pairing. Jacob Stockdale returns to the back three alongside Rob Lyttle and Matt Faddes. There’s also a welcome return for Robert Baloucoune who is named on the bench.
Ulster are up against a full strength Munster side. Like his fellow countryman Rassie Erasmus, Johan van Graan has opted for a 6-2 split on the bench with Arno Botha offering extra fire power in the 23 jersey.
Ulster are currently sitting on an 85% lineout accuracy which is similar to what Ulster averaged over the course of last season. However there’s quite a few lineouts that Ulster may have won but in a scrappy fashion rendering any attacking platform null and void.
Van Graan’s men have the potential to make this a horrible evening for Ulster tomorrow with Peter O’Mahony, Billy Holland and Jean Kleyn all included in the starting team. Watch out for Munster jacking O’Mahony up at two in the lineout to put Herring’sdarts under pressure.
The previous two weeks represent two points dropped for Ulster as they had plenty of opportunites to secure the bonus point against both Cardiff Blues and Zebre. Inaccuracy and tough conditions saw Ulster cross only twice against Cardiff and three times against Zebre when in reality neither side was great.
The FRU predicts: Unfortunately I think Ulster’s poor record away from home will continue in the interpros. Munster to win by 14 points.
|Mike Haley||15||Matt Faddes|
|Andrew Conway||14||Robert Lyttle|
|Chris Farrell||13||Luke Marshall|
|Rory Scannell||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|Liam Coombes||11||Jacob Stockdale|
|JJ Hanrahan||10||Angus Curtis|
|Alby Mathewson||9||John Cooney|
|James Cronin||1||Jack McGrath|
|Niall Scannell||2||Rob Herring|
|John Ryan||3||Marty Moore|
|Jean Kleyn||4||Alan O’Connor|
|Billy Holland||5||Sam Carter|
|Peter O’Mahony||6||Sean Reidy|
|Chris Cloete||7||Jordi Murphy|
|CJ Stander||8||Nick Timoney|
|Jeremy Loughman||16||Adam McBurney|
|Kevin O’Byrne||17||Eric O’Sullivan|
|Stephen Archer||18||Tom O’Toole|
|Fineen Wycherley||19||Kieran Treadwell|
|Jack O’Donoghue||20||Matthew Rea|
|Conor Murray||21||Dave Shanahan|
|Tyler Bleyendaal||22||Bill Johnston|
|Arno Botha||23||Robert Baloucoune|