Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, James Hume and Ethan McIlroy are the only players to retain a place in Dan McFarland‘s starting team as the big guns come back for the challenge of Munster.
Irish U20 captain David McCann will make his first start for Ulster at openside flanker while we will see Nathan Doak and Callum Reid in Ulster shirts for the first time as they are set to make their debuts off the bench.
McCann won the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019 with the U20s and looked set to replicate this achievement in 2020 as captain until the tournament was cut short due to COVID. He forms a very mobile back row with Timoney and Matthew Rea and I’m looking forward to seeing the Banbridge RFC player operate at the breakdown.
Son of ex Ulster player and coach Neil Doak, Nathan was a stand out player for Wallace High School until he left last year. Comfortable at scrum half or out half, he’s a great shoe on him and will make his debut at just 19 years of age if he comes off the bench tomorrow night. He’s already appeared for the A team last season with great success and it’s a matter of time before he’s a regular fixture in the senior side.
Reid is highly rated and spent a number of weeks on loan at Munster in the Autumn as injury cover. The 21 year old has impressed in a Banbridge jersey in the AIL as well as for the A team in the Celtic Cup and was a part of the same Grand Slam winning team as club team mate McCann.
With a big conference derby against Connacht next week, Johann van Graan has rotated his side for the trip to Belfast. Livewire Craig Casey starts at nine along side Ben Healy and both are members of the victorious U20 team of 2019. They’ve been regular fixtures in the Munster side this year and have taken their chances with aplomb.
Watch out for number eight Jack O’Sullivan. A Munster academy graduate, he’s been unfortunate with injuries so far in his short career but at just 22, time is on his side. He’s a cousin of the Scannell brothers and possesses a threat with the ball in hand for the away side.
From this year’s U20 side, Thomas Ahern and Jack Crowley start on the bench. Ahern is an athletic lock with a lethal turn of pace while out half Crowley scored this fantastic try against Scotland in the Six Nations last season.
Click on Murray Kinsella’s thread and the next tweet will show you what I mean about Ahern.
Munster are on a nine-game unbeaten streak of their own however this includes two wins in the European Cup. Their comeback victory in the Stade Marcel-Michelin against Clermont Auvergne two weeks ago was incredible and represents their first away victory against the Montferrand men.
Ulster have a poor record against Munster over the last 12 matches including seven losses and two draws. The last match went the way of the Red Hand province however, with Ulster running in five tries in a comfortable 38-17 win at Ravenhill.
|24-8-18||PRO14||Thomond Park||Ben Whitehouse||24||24|
|29-9-18||PRO14||Thomond Park||Daniel Jones||7||64|
|9-11-18||PRO14||Thomond Park||Frank Murphy||16||22|
|Jacob Stockdale||15||Shane Daly|
|Matt Faddes||14||Calvin Nash|
|James Hume||13||Dan Goggin|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Rory Scannell|
|Ethan McIlroy||11||Liam Coombes|
|Billy Burns||10||Ben Healy|
|John Cooney||9||Craig Casey|
|Eric O’Sullivan||1||Liam O’Connor|
|Rob Herring||2||Niall Scannell|
|Marty Moore||3||John Ryan|
|Kieran Treadwell||4||Fineen Wycherley|
|Sam Carter||5||Billy Holland|
|Matthew Rea||6||Jack O’Donoghue|
|David McCann||7||Chris Cloete|
|Nick Timoney||8||Jack O’Sullivan|
|Adam McBurney||16||Rhys Marshall|
|Callum Reid||17||Dave Kilcoyne|
|Tom O’Toole||18||Roman Salanoa|
|David O’Connor||19||Thomas Ahern|
|Marcell Coetzee||20||Tommy O’Donnell|
|Nathan Doak||21||Nick McCarthy|
|Ian Madigan||22||Jack Crowley|
|Ben Moxham||23||Darren Sweetnam|
The man in the middle…
Mike Adamson will referee his 47th league game tomorrow night as he officiates Ulster v Munster. It will be his 12th match officiating Ulster since his first in March 2017 against Dragons. All but one have come in the league with the exception being last season’s Champions Cup nail biter against Harlequins.
Out of the 11 games, Ulster have lost three including a 44 – 16 hammering in Galway in December 2017. Other losses have come against Cardiff Blues in March 2018 and Zebre in September 2017.
The FRU predicts
I think Ulster will win this. There’s a nice mix of youth and experience in the side while Munster will have one eye on the match next week. I don’t think it will be easy as the Limerick side have a few exciting players in their 23. I’m looking forward to this as it shapes up to be a fantastic encounter between two rivals. Ulster by six points.