Dan McFarland has made six changes as Ulster head to Twickenham Stoop in search of their first European knockout match win since 2012.
Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, Rob Herring, Stuart McCloskey, Nick Timoney and Alan O’Connor all return to the starting lineup while Iain Henderson misses out.
There were question marks whether Burns would start ahead of the in-form Ian Madigan, as the ex Gloucester man has only played 134 minutes of rugby in 2021 due to injury while away with Ireland.
This is Ulster’s first ever match in the second tier of Europe and the team named indicates that they are eyeing an end to their 17 year trophy drought.
Having relieved Paul Gustard of his duties at the start of the year, Harlequins have been on an upward trajectory and have played fantastic rugby that’s resulted in a plethora of tries being scored and a positional rise from seventh to third in the Premiership standings.
On the pitch, the revival has been sparked by Marcus Smith, Alex Dombrandt, Will Evans, Danny Care, Andre Esterhuizen and Mike Brown but none of these players are involved tomorrow as the west London side have their focus on domestic glory.
There’s a start for former Ulster player, Brett Herron at ten who has played only 24 minutes of rugby to date in the Premiership season. At Ulster he made just eight appearances before moving Jersey Reds in 2018.
Tyrone Green is the only survivor from their heartbreaking defeat to Bristol Bears last weekend but he fills the 15 jersey instead of the right wing spot. The former Lions player was a star for South Africa in their U20 World Championship campaign in 2018 and has scored four tries in 11 appearances for his new club.
At 12 is former Utah Warrior and Chicago Bears practice squad running back Paul Lasike. He’s deadly from close range so expect him to carry hard into Burns if Quins have an attacking 5m scrum. He has hardly featured this season, chalking up just 12 minutes of rugby against Gloucester in December.
Also included in the Quins squad is Munster’s Jack Stafford who moved to Quins in the summer of 2020. Stafford featured in our Ireland U20 2017 coverage where he and Jonny Stewart battled it out for the scrum half berth for most of the season.
|18-10-08||European Cup||Twickenham Stoop||Tim Hayes||21||42|
|17-1-09||European Cup||Ravenhill||Romain Poite||21||10|
|10-12-17||European Cup||Twickenham Stoop||Pascal Gauzere||17||5|
|15-12-17||European Cup||Ravenhill||Alexandre Ruiz||52||24|
|7-12-19||European Cup||Ravenhill||Mike Adamson||25||24|
|13-12-19||European Cup||Twickenham Stoop||Alexandre Ruiz||34||10|
The Man in the Middle
It’s a high profile appointment for a Challenge Cup match as Romain Poite will take the whistle tomorrow night.
Ulster have lost eight of the 14 competitive games that Poite has been involved, including the last four matches. He officiated Ulster’s 21-18 Champions Cup exit to Leinster in March 2019 but has also overseen some memorable Ulster victories including the 22-16 win at Thomond Park, the 41-7 win over Leicester Tigers as well as the 2012 Heineken Cup semi final against Edinburgh.
|11-10-13||European Cup||Leicester Tigers||Ravenhill||22||16|
|18-10-14||European Cup||Leicester Tigers||Welford Road||18||25|
|15-1-17||European Cup||Exeter Chiefs||Sandy Park||19||31|
|30-3-19||European Cup||Leinster||Lansdowne Road||18||21|
|Tyrone Green||15||Michael Lowry|
|Luke Northmore||14||Robert Baloucoune|
|James Lang||13||James Hume|
|Paul Lasike||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|Nathan Earle||11||Jacob Stockdale|
|Brett Herron||10||Billy Burns|
|Scott Steele||9||John Cooney|
|Santiago Garcia Botta||1||Eric O’Sullivan|
|Elia Elia||2||Rob Herring|
|Will Collier||3||Marty Moore|
|Hugh Tizard||4||Alan O’Connor|
|George Hammond||5||Kieran Treadwell|
|Archie White||6||Sean Reidy|
|Jack Kenningham||7||Jordi Murphy (C)|
|Tom Lawday (C)||8||Nick Timoney.|
|George Head||16||John Andrew|
|Jordan Els||17||Andrew Warwick|
|Simon Kerrod||18||Tom O’Toole|
|Tevita Cavubati||19||Cormac Izuchukwu|
|Matas Jurevicius||20||Matty Rea|
|Jack Stafford||21||Alby Mathewson|
|Ben Tapuai||22||Ian Madigan|
|Ross Chisholm||23||Ethan McIlroy|
The FRU Predicts: Prior to the teams being announced, the bookies were given Ulster a four point head start but this swung to a ten point head start for Harlequins after it was confirmed they would be fielding a rotated side. I believe this Ulster side will get the job done at the Stoop tomorrow night.