Dan McFarland has made ten changes as Ulster travel to the Sportsground to take on Connacht tonight.
Michael Lowry, James Hume, Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Alan O’Connor are the only players to retain their spots in the starting team as the injury roster lengthens meanwhile player management protocols also have to be adhered to.
Ex Larne High schoolboy Ben Moxham is set to make his debut off the bench for the province tomorrow night. Predominantly a centre, Moxham played in both victories for the A team over Connacht and Munster recently however has featured on the wing for Ireland U20s in the most recent Six Nations. He’s also Sevens experience having featured for Ireland U18 in their victorious European Championship campaign in 2019.
Rainey Old Boy Brad Roberts is also included on the bench after making his debut earlier in the season.
Connacht have gone fully loaded with the only notable absentee being Bundee Aki in the centre. Alex Wootton also misses out after solid performances in Europe with Tiernan O’Halloran moving to fullback and John Porch starting on the right wing.
Up front is my main concern for Ulster. With Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Finlay Bealham all starting in the front row, Connacht will target Ulster’s scrum – an element where Ulster haven’t had much success over the last two matches.
Irish teams have won 26/28 PRO14 matches this season with the home side accounting for the two losses against Cardiff Blues and Scarlets. The Galway side is level on points with Scarlets in the top three of Conference B behind Munster but crucially have played two less games than the Welsh region.
In Europe Connacht produced a very good away performance in Paris against Racing 92 coming back from 24-8 down on 50 minutes to having possession in the Racing 22 four points down with minutes to go. Bristol put Connacht’s chances to bed with a bonus point win last week.
|Tiernan O’Halloran||15||Michael Lowry|
|John Porch||14||Craig Gilroy|
|Sam Arnold||13||James Hume|
|Tom Daly||12||Stewart Moore|
|Matt Healy||11||Ethan McIlroy|
|Jack Carty||10||Ian Madigan|
|Caolin Blade||9||Alby Mathewson|
|Denis Buckley||1||Kyle McCall|
|Shane Delahunt||2||John Andrew|
|Finlay Bealham||3||Tom O’Toole|
|Ultan Dillane||4||Alan O’Connor|
|Quinn Roux||5||Kieran Treadwell|
|Eoghan Masterson||6||Greg Jones|
|Conor Oliver||7||Jordi Murphy|
|Jarrad Butler||8||Nick Timoney|
|Dave Heffernan||16||Bradley Roberts|
|Jordan Duggan||17||Andrew Warwick|
|Dominic Robertson-McCoy||18||Marty Moore|
|Gavin Thornbury||19||David O’Connor|
|Sean Masterson||20||Matthew Rea|
|Kieran Marmion||21||David Shanahan|
|Sean O’Brien||22||Ben Moxham|
|Colm de Buitlear||23||Matt Faddes|
The man in the middle…
Sean Gallagher will take charge of his fifth Ulster match since his first against Zebre in February 2017, including the comeback against Munster in 2018 when Sam Arnold was sent off for the Limerick side.
On that occasion, Ulster were 17-0 down at half time before Darren Cave and a Craig Gilroy brace levelled the match with Rob Lyttle crossing in the final play of the game to win in front of a raucous Ravenhill crowd.
|26-2-17||Celtic League||Zebre||Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi||40||14|
The FRU predicts
I think it will be tough for Ulster tomorrow and have Connacht as firm favourites. I expect it to be typical Galway conditions and will give the home side the edge, especially up front. Connacht by 12.
With Leinster not playing this weekend, a win would extend Ulster’s lead at the top which is now crucial as only the top side from each side conference progressing to the final.