Five changes have been made ahead of the trip to Murrayfield to face off with Edinburgh in Round 8 of the Guinness PRO14.
Andrew Warwick will make his first start since December 2019 while Sam Carter replaces the suspended Kieran Treadwell. Jordi Murphy also returns while James Hume and Ian Madigan are also named in the starting team.
With the European Champions Cup just two weeks away, rotation was inevitable as Ulster aim to do one better in the competition where they fell at the quarter final hurdle last season. Five players have featured in every game so far this season and Stewart Moore, Sean Reidy and Marty Moore are three players set to make it eight appearances in eight games tomorrow night.
Rainey Old Boys’ hooker Brad Roberts is included on the bench after a string of impressive seasons with the Magherafelt side in AIL 2A. Roberts is a bruising ball carrier with impressive leg drive after contact and has the ability to offload. After much fanfare, Aaron Sexton is also set for a debut appearance off the bench. The former Bangor Grammar man was an exceptional runner being crowned Ireland’s fastest schoolboy in 100m and 200m in 2019.
Warwick starts alongside John Andrew and Marty Moore in the front row with Carter partnering Alan O’Connor in the second row. I think it’s a full strength back row for Ulster as Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee line out at 6, 7 and 8 respectively.
John Cooney joins Madigan at half back while the partnership of Stewart Moore and James Hume resumes after the latter recovers from a groin injury sustained against the Dragons. The back three of Rob Lyttle, Matt Faddes and Michael Lowry remains unchanged from the win over Scarlets last Sunday.
With Scotland’s Autumn Nations Cup fixture against Fiji being cancelled this weekend there were some rumours that Edinburgh could be with their internationals for this game. This is not the case with Richard Cockerill fielding an unfamiliar side however they are boosted with the earlier than expected Bill Mata return
Chris Dean is a regular in the Edinburgh side clocking 97 appearances and 15 tries since signing in 2014 but is yet to make his international 15s bow. Eroni Sau is a Fiji Sevens star and joined the club in 2018 after a stint with USA Perpignan. Sau was named in the World Rugby Sevens Series Dream Team in his rookie season and also made a hat trick scoring start to his international 15s career for Fiji. Former Glasgow Warrior Henry Pyrgos captains the side from scrum half.
Up front Pierre Schoeman is a useful scrummager and a very good ball carrier. Hamish Watson‘s absence is a loss but Magnus Bradbury occupies the blindside flanker jersey.
Edinburgh lie in fifth place in Conference B after a rocky start to the season. They were hammered by Leinster at the RDS two weeks ago and have had time to prepare for this match with last week’s fixture with Dragons postponed. Their two wins have come against Welsh side, a 6-3 win in awful conditions away to Scarlets and an 18-0 victory in round five over Cardiff Blues.
While both Ulster and Edinburgh are heavily impacted by injuries, international call ups and suspensions, I think tomorrow’s hosts are significantly worse off. Ulster will be buoyed by recent performances at Murrayfield – they haven’t lost to Edinburgh at Murrayfield since November 2016 and the games since then include two bonus point wins and a last gasp penalty from Ian Madigan in last season’s PRO14 semi final win.
The FRU predicts: I think Ulster can made it 8/8 and 4/4 on the road this season in what has been a very pleasing start for the northern province.
|Jack Blain||15||Michael Lowry|
|Eroni Sau||14||Matt Faddes|
|James Johnstone||13||James Hume|
|Chris Dea||12||Stewart Moore|
|Jamie Farndale||11||Rob Lyttle|
|Nathan Chamberlain||10||Ian Madigan|
|Henry Pyrgos||9||John Cooney|
|Pierre Schoeman||1||Andrew Warwick|
|David Cherry||2||John Andrew|
|Lee Roy Atalifo||3||Marty Moore|
|Andries Ferreira||4||Alan O’Connor|
|Andrew Davidson||5||Sam Carter|
|Magnus Bradbury||6||Sean Reidy|
|Luke Crosbie||7||Jordi Murphy|
|Ally Miller||8||Marcell Coetzee|
|Mike Willemse||16||Brad Roberts|
|Sam Grahamslaw||17||Kyle McCall|
|Dan Gamble||18||Gareth Milasinovich|
|Jamie Hodgson||19||David O’Connor|
|Bill Mata||20||David McCann|
|Connor Boyle||21||David Shanahan|
|Charlie Shiel||22||Bill Johnston|
|Alec Coombes||23||Aaron Sexton|