Ulster have made 12 changes to their starting line up as they look to get their Rainbow Cup campaign off the ground against Leinster at the RDS on Friday evening, kick off 20:15.
In come Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Craig Gilroy, Billy Burns and David Shanahan to Ulster’s back line with Rob Lyttle the only player replaced to stay in the squad as he drops to the bench.
It’s all change up front as Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Marty Moore form a new front row. dam carer comes in, to join Iain Henderson in the second row, and Matty Rea, Sean Reidy and Nick Timoney form the back row. Off the seven forwards replaced only Tom O’Toole and Alan O’Connor are retained, both starting from the bench.
The above changes were probably pre-arranged at the start of this competition and with no one putting a hand up last week there wouldn’t have been any need for Dan McFarland to change his plans.
The bench probably sees the most interesting changes with youngster Nathan Doak and veteran Ian Madigan forming the replacement half backs. Brad Roberts and Greg Jones also join the squad on the bench with replacement prop Callum Reid retaining his bench spot from last week.
Unlike Ulster, Leinster were able to bounce back from their European defeat with a comfortable victory at Connacht last week to keep their hopes of winning the Rainbow Cup alive. 16-0 down after 13 minutes, the PRO14 champions romped home inspired by a Hugo Keenan hat trick to score eight tries in a 50-21 win at the Sportsground. While Keenan sits this one out it’s a strong Leinster side with Caelan Doris and Jimmy O’Brien back from injuries to start. Luke McGrath will captain from scrum half.
Ulster have a torrid record against Leinster, losing their last five meetings with the last win coming in April 2019. That win is the only result in Ulster’s favour in the last ten matches. Away from home is just as grim with Ulster recording just one win since 2000 which came in March 2013.
|20 DEC 19||PRO14||RDS||George Clancy||42 (14)||54 (33)|
|29 AUG 20||PRO14||Lansdowne Road||George Clancy||10 (0)||28 (13)|
|12 SEP 20||PRO14||Lansdowne Road||Andrew Brace||5 (5)||27 (10)|
|8 JAN 21||PRO14||RDS||Andrew Brace||12 (9)||24 (5)|
|6 MAR 21||PRO14||Ravenhill||Frank Murphy||19 (12)||31 (24)|
|Jimmy O’Brien||15||Jacob Stockdale|
|Jordan Larmour||14||Robert Baloucoune|
|Garry Ringrose||13||James Hume|
|Robbie Henshaw||12||Stuart McCloskey|
|Dave Kearney||11||Craig Gilroy|
|Ross Byrne||10||Billy Burns|
|Luke McGrath (C)||9||David Shanahan|
|Cian Healy||1||Eric O’Sullivan|
|Seán Cronin||2||Rob Herring|
|Tadhg Furlong||3||Marty Moore|
|Ryan Baird||4||Sam Carter|
|James Ryan||5||Iain Henderson (C)|
|Josh Murphy||6||Matty Rea|
|Josh van der Flier||7||Sean Reidy|
|Caelan Doris||8||Nick Timoney|
|Rónan Kelleher||16||Brad Roberts|
|Michael Milne||17||Callum Reid|
|Michael Bent||18||Tom O’Toole|
|Devin Toner||19||Alan O’Connor|
|Jack Conan||20||Greg Jones|
|Cormac Foley||21||Nathan Doak|
|Rory O’Loughlin||22||Ian Madigan|
|Tommy O’Brien.||23||Rob Lyttle|
The FRU predicts: While many will regard this as a nothing game in a end of season kick about it’s still a game in which Ulster need to show some mettle. The team are on a run of three defeats against middling opposition and they need to make a response. With 7 of the Ulster side coming from Leinster you would hope they would have the incentive to make a point.
I still expect Leinster to win but Ulster need to keep it to less than 10 and can’t afford to be bullied out of the game for the fourth consecutive match.