John Cooney returns to the starting team as Ulster seek a seventh straight win in the league when they face Scarlets at Kingspan tomorrow night.
The scrum half is one of of six changes with Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy and Matthew Rea coming in for Sam Carter, Jordi Murphy and Greg Jones in the pack while Rob Lyttle replaces Ethan McIlroy and Matt Faddes is preferred ahead of Craig Gilroy.
Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew and Marty Moore form a formidable front row as all three have started the season in fine form. Alan O’Connor partners Treadwell at lock while Rea and Reidy combine with talisman Marcell Coetzee for Ulster’s back row.
Bill Johnston remains at out half alongside Cooney. Try scorers against Zebre Stewart Moore and Luke Marshall remain as the centre pairing while Lyttle and Faddes join with Michael Lowry in the back three.
The away fixtures against Ospreys and Cardiff are the only games where Ulster have faced any sort of resistance this season. Much like their fellow Welsh regions the Scarlets have endured a difficult start to the campaign. Ben Healy edged them out with the final kick of the game in round one while they were comfortably defeated by Glasgow Warriors in round two.
Scarlets stole a victory at Benetton in round three despite Morgan Jones receiving a red card while Josh Helps made it two red cards in two games when he was sent off in their defeat to Edinburgh. Two wins against Zebre and Connacht have Scarlets on 14 points level with Cardiff in Conference B.
There’s a few unfamiliar names in the Welsh region’s starting 15 for tomorrow but they are packed with quality players in the pack. Sione Kalamafoni signed from Leicester Tigers and is a ball carrier while Jac Morgan delivered a man of the match display at the Sportsground last week. There’s a penalty or two in Sam Lousi while Rob Evans provides some experience at loose head prop.
Paul Asquith is versatile at 12 while Ryan Conbeer is an electric winger who scored a fantastic individual try against Ulster on his PRO14 debut in 2018.
Dan McFarland has rotated well and it’s hard to point out a defintive weakened side that Ulster have fielded this season. Yes, they have been lucky with very few international call ups but they’ve signed well during the off season and have built a very good PRO14 squad over the last few years.
When he takes the field tomorrow Tom O’Toole will be the 41st player used by McFarland this season which is already just five less than the total number of players used last season. The calibre of opposition will definitely have played a factor but it is good to see young players such as David McCann and Stewart Moore being given the chance.
At 19 points Ulster already have already a huge lead on third place Ospreys in Conference A who take on Benetton at St Helen’s tomorrow while Glasgow Warriors welcome Munster to Scotstoun.
The FRU predicts: On paper Ulster have the better squad tomorrow. I think they’ll make it seven on the trot and keep the pace up with Leinster who host Cardiff Blues.
|Michael Lowry||15||Angus O’Brien|
|Matt Faddes||14||Ryan Conbeer|
|Luke Marshall||13||Steff Hughes|
|Stewart Moore||12||Paul Asquith|
|Rob Lyttle||11||Steff Evans|
|Bill Johnston||10||Dan Jones|
|John Cooney||9||Dane Blacker|
|Eric O’Sullivan||1||Rob Evans|
|John Andrew||2||Taylor Davies|
|Marty Moore||3||Javon Sebastian|
|Alan O’Connor||4||Sam Lousi|
|Kieran Treadwell||5||Danny Drake|
|Matty Rea||6||Ed Kennedy|
|Sean Reidy||7||Jac Morgan|
|Marcell Coetzee||8||Sione Kalamafoni|
|Adam McBurney||16||Daf Hughes|
|Kyle McCall||17||Phil Price|
|Tom O’Toole||18||Werner Kruger|
|Dave O’Connor||19||Jac Price|
|Jordi Murphy||20||Uzair Cassiem|
|Alby Mathewson||21||Will Homer|
|Ian Madigan||22||Sam Costelow|
|Craig Gilroy||23||Tyler Morgan|