Marcus Rea will make his first start for Ulster while his brother, Matthew, is set to make his 50th Ulster appearance as Dan McFarland makes four changes for the trip to Swansea.
Alan O’Connor replaces Sam Carter in the second row, Marcus Rea starts ahead of Sean Reidy and in the backline, Ian Madigan and Matt Faddes start at out half and right wing respectively.
It’s the first time we’ll have seen Rea junior in the senior side since his 60 minute match winning appearance off the bench against Leinster in 2018. He was exceptional on what was his debut and would have no doubt been involved last season had COVID not curtailed proceedings. While Marcus is celebrating his first start for Ulster, Matthew Rea will be celebrating his 50th appearance for the province since making his Ulster debut against Cheetahs in 2017.
With no out half cover on the bench, Ulster will be hoping Madigan can go the full eighty, especially as they’ve included an extra forward, Reidy, in the 23 jersey. Against Toulouse Ulster had a 6/2 split on the bench and that backfired massively with Stuart McCloskey and Billy Burns both picking up injuries and John Cooney finishing the match on the wing.
Ulster’s opponents tonight are a resurgent Ospreys’s side. Under new coach Toby Booth, the Welsh region recorded an excellent 27-10 win at Edinburgh in the opening round of this season’s PRO14. Rhys Webb is an excellent signing and joins Stephen Myler at half back in a very experienced combination. Kieran Williams and Mat Protheroe had very good games last week with the latter contributing two tries and the former providing one assist.
Last week, Paolo Garbisi and Ignacio Brex had joy with direct running fracturing the Ulster defence. Myler is a wily character and I think we’ll see more of this tonight. On the other hand, Ulster have Stewart Moore and James Hume starting in the centres and both showed they are capable of carving open a defence.
Both sides have included their international stars; Justin Tipuric, Alun-Wyn Jones, Webb and Owen Watkin for the Ospreys and Iain Henderson, Marcell Coetzee, Cooney and Jacob Stockdale for Ulster. I think this will be a very good game and a good advert for a league that is shorn of it’s international players for a lot of the season.
The FRU predicts: Ulster have had mixed success in Wales over the last couple of seasons. They succumbed to a poor defeat to Ospreys last season but won two of the three away matches the season before. This will be a bigger test than last week but is a match Ulster are very capable of winning.
However, Ulster’s away form leaves something to be desired so I am tipping Ospreys to be the victors later on tonight..
|Dan Evans||15||Jacob Stockdale|
|Mat Protheroe||14||Matt Faddes|
|Owen Watkin||13||James Hume|
|Kieran Williams||12||Stewart Moore|
|Luke Morgan||11||Rob Lyttle|
|Stephen Myler||10||Ian Madigan|
|Rhys Webb||9||John Cooney|
|Nicky Smith||1||Jack McGrath|
|Sam Parry||2||Rob Herring|
|Tom Botha||3||Marty Moore|
|Adam Beard||4||Alan O’Connor|
|Alun Wyn Jones||5||Iain Henderson|
|Olly Cracknell||6||Matthew Rea|
|Justin Tipuric||7||Marcus Rea|
|Morgan Morris||8||Marcell Coetzee|
|Dewi Lake||16||Adam McBurney|
|Rhodri Jones||17||Eric O’Sullivan|
|Ma’afu Fia||18||Gareth Milasinovich|
|Bradley Davies||19||Kieran Treadwell|
|Dan Lydiate||20||Greg Jones|
|Harri Morgan||21||Dave Shanahan|
|Josh Thomas||22||Louis Ludik|
|Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler||23||Sean Reidy|