PRO14: Teams up for Dragons v Ulster

Published Categorised as 2020-21, Dragons Rugby, PRO14, Provincial Rugby Men, Ulster Rugby Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Michael Lowry in action for Ulster Development v Munster Development in 2017. © John McMurtry The Front Row Union

As expected, Dan McFarland has rotated the team ahead of Ulster’s first trip to the Principality Stadium to take on the Dragons tonight.

Seven changes have been made with Ross Kane coming into the front row while Sean Reidy and David McCann starting in the back row. In the backs, Michael Lowry makes his third start at ten while Alby Mathewson, Rob Lyttle, Stewart Moore and Craig Gilroy are the changes from last week.

While nothing is at stake for Ulster, they cannot catch Leinster at the top of the conference and their second place finish in the pool is secure as they sit 23 points ahead of Ospreys, Dragons have plenty to play for as Glasgow sit five points ahead of them in the final Champions Cup space.

There’s a few faces that haven’t seen a lot of game time this season, so this is their chance to impress ahead of the Rainbow Cup and Challenge Cup knockout stage.

The opposition

Chasing Champions Cup qualification, the Dragons are buoyed by the midweek announcement that Wales and Lions international Jamie Roberts has signed a new contract.

Dragons have only four wins this season and they have come against Ospreys, Benetton, Glasgow and Zebre. Scoring 28 tries in this season’s campaign Ashton Hewitt tops their chart as well as in clean breaks, metres gained and defenders beaten (PRO14 website). He doesn’t feature but Wales international and former Leicester Tiger Jonah Holmes starts on the wing.

Up front Ollie Griffiths has recovered from injury to join Ross Moriarty in the back row. Both are quality players that will cause Ulster some problems. Watch out for Ben Carter on the bench who has made an impression in his debut season as well as Nick Tompkins who has been released from international duty for this match.

Ulster swept the Dragons aside with ease at Ravenhill in October with Louis Ludik scoring twice as well as scores from Marcell Coetzee, Eric O’Sullivan, Sean Reidy and Alan O’Connor.

4-3-17Celtic LeagueRodney ParadeMike Adamson2717
22-9-17PRO14RavenhillDaniel Jones5225
1-12-17PRO14Rodney ParadeMarius Mitrea3232
26-10-18PRO14RavenhillMarius Mitrea3618
3-3-19PRO14Rodney ParadeStuart Berry2815
25-10-20PRO14RavenhillGianluca Gnecchi4017
Ulster haven’t lost home/away against Dragons since March 2015 when they lost 26-22 at Rodney Parade

The man in the middle

Adam Jones will ref his 10th competition game at the Principality tonight and this will be his second Ulster match, having officiated Ulster’s 35-24 win over Benetton on the opening weekend of the tournament.

Ben Whitehouse and Dan Jones are the assistant referees while Ian Davies makes it an all Welsh affair in the TMO box.

Josh Lewis15Jacob Stockdale
Jonah Holmes14Craig Gilroy
Aneurin Owen13Stewart Moore
Jamie Roberts12Stuart McCloskey
Rio Dyer11Rob Lyttle
Sam Davies10Michael Lowry
Rhodri Williams (c)9Alby Mathewson
Brok Harris1Eric O’Sullivan
Richard Hibbard2John Andrew
Lloyd Fairbrother3Ross Kane
Joe Davies4Alan O’Connor (C)
Joe Maksymiw5Kieran Treadwell
Harrison Keddie6David McCann
Ollie Griffiths7Sean Reidy
Ross Moriarty8Nick Timoney
Rhys Lawrence16Brad Roberts
Josh Reynolds17Callum Reid
Aaron Jarvis18Gareth Milasinovich
Matthew Screech19Cormac Izuchukwu
Ben Carter20Matty Rea
Dan Baker21David Shanahan
Gonzalo Bertranou22Ian Madigan
Nick Tompkins23Ethan McIlroy

The FRU predicts

I’m looking forward to seeing how this Ulster side goes. There’s a lot of inexperience – David McCann, Stewart Moore and Michael Lowry at ten all start while Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Cormac Izuchukwu and Ethan McIlroy are named on the bench. Ulster are still favourites, but I think the Dragons will be stiff opposition with the potential to spring an upset.

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