On Wednesday it was announced that the cross hemisphere fixtures would be unable to be fulfilled due to COVID restrictions. Now, the Rainbow Cup resorts to a dual tournament format with inter-provincial fixtures up first and the final three games to be confirmed.
Despite a Challenge Cup semi final on the horizon, Dan McFarland has named a strong side ahead of the match tomorrow.
Iain Henderson is welcomed back into the starting team while Will Addison will make his first appearance since January 2020 off the bench tomorrow night. Andrew Warwick and Tom O’Toole return to prop while Matthew Rea replaces Jordi Murphy in the back row. Stewart Moore and Ethan McIlroy are the only additions to the back line with Jacob Stockdale moving to fullback to accommodate the latter.
Connacht were the only Irish side to lose multiple games to non-Irish opposition in the regular PRO14 season this year and finished second to Munster in Conference B with eight wins and eight defeats. They were knocked out of the Challenge Cup in the round of 16 in a high scoring game against Leicester Tigers, who Ulster will meet in the semi final next weekend.
Alex Wootton is their top domestic try scorer so far this season with nine, tied at the top of the standings with Marcell Coetzee and Scott Penny. He’s also in the top three for metres made, clean breaks and defenders beaten and signed on a permanent deal last month having initially been in Galway on loan from Munster.
Wootton is just one of many on a lengthy Connacht injury list but it’s still a decent team that will lineup at Ravenhill tomorrow night. Caolin Blade and Jack Carty have an interesting battle with John Cooney and Billy Burns, and all four have aspirations of the green jersey. Conor Oliver has been very impressive so far this season and he starts with captain Paul Boyle and Eoghan Masterson in the back row.
Since 1995, Ulster have won 36 out of 46 matches against the western province with four of the nine losses coming in the last five years. Details of the last six matches between the sides are below.
|05 OCT 18||PRO14||Ravenhill||Andrew Brace||15||22|
|28 DEC 18||PRO14||The Sportsground||Marius Mitrea||12||21|
|04 MAY 19||PRO14||Ravenhill||Andrew Brace||21||13|
|27 DEC 19||PRO14||Ravenhill||Sean Gallagher||35||3|
|23 AUG 20||PRO14||Landsowne Road||Frank Murphy||20||26|
|27 DEC 20||PRO14||The Sportsground||Sean Gallagher||32||19|
The man in the middle
Andrew Brace will take charge of this third Ulster match this season tomorrow night having previously officiated the 24-12 defeat at the RDS to Leinster and the 49-3 win over Zebre in the final PRO14 match.
Most notably, Brace gave Matthew Rea his marching orders in 2018 when Connacht defeated Ulster at Ravenhill for the first time since 1960. Out of the 13 Ulster games he’s officiated, seven have gone the way of the men in white while the other six have been defeats.
|04 MAY 19||PRO14||Connacht||Ravenhill||21||13|
|12 SEPT 20||PRO14||Leinster||Lansdowne Road||8||27|
|08 JAN 21||PRO14||Leinster||RDS||12||24|
|19 MAR 21||PRO14||Zebre||Ravenhill||49||3|
|Jacob Stockdale||15||John Porch|
|Robert Baloucoune||14||Ben O’Donnell|
|James Hume||13||Sean O’Brien|
|Stewart Moore||12||Tom Daly|
|Ethan McIlroy||11||Matt Healy|
|Billy Burns||10||Jack Carty|
|John Cooney||9||Caolin Blade|
|Andrew Warwick||1||Jordan Duggan|
|Rob Herring||2||Dave Heffernan|
|Tom O’Toole||3||Finlay Bealham|
|Kieran Treadwell||4||Ultan Dillane|
|Iain Henderson (C)||5||Gavin Thornbury|
|Matty Rea||6||Eoghan Masterson|
|Sean Reidy||7||Conor Oliver|
|Nick Timoney||8||Paul Boyle (C)|
|John Andrew||16||Shane Delahunt|
|Eric O’Sullivan||17||Matthew Burke|
|Ross Kane||18||Dominic Robertson-McCoy|
|Alan O’Connor||19||Niall Murray|
|Greg Jones||20||Abraham Papali’i|
|David Shanahan||21||Kieran Marmion|
|Michael Lowry||22||Conor Fitzgerald|
|Will Addison||23||Peter Sullivan|
The FRU Predicts: Both sides have the ability to play running rugby and considering the conditions are to be dry tomorrow night, we’ll see a few tries scored. Ulster to win by 12 points.