Preview: Clermont v Ulster

Date published: January 20 2012

Ulster have made just one change for their 100th game in the Heineken Cup, with Ian Whitten in for Darren Cave to face Clermont.

Ulster have made just one change for their 100th game in the Heineken Cup, with Ian Whitten coming in for injured centre Darren Cave to face Clermont.

Brian McLaughlin has had consistency in selection over recent weeks but the loss of Cave is a big blow for Ulster ahead of a massive encounter at Stade Marcel Michelin. Whitten though, has had plenty of gametime and is a more than able replacement in midfield. The Ulster coach can also call on Nevin Spence who returns from injury and available from the bench.

Johann Muller will once again lead an all-international pack, in which loose forwards Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry and Pedrie Wannenburg have been in excellent form.

Ulster's match winners against Leicester, Ruan Pienaar and Andrew Trimble, will be instrumental to Ulster's hope of victory this time out. Stefan Terblanche gets the nod over Adam D'Arcy at full-back.

Apart from the inclusion of Spence, the only other change among the replacements is Andi Kyriacou coming in for Nigel Brady. The hooker will earn his 50th cap if he emerges.

Ulster face a difficult task in their 100th European tie. They have never won in France in 14 attempts, while their hosts on Saturday are unbeaten at home in 38 matches. But Ulster will be buoyed by the performance against Leicester last week and are determined to create history by making the knockouts in two consecutive years for the first time in their history.

“This weekend is all about clearing the next hurdle in our progression. It was great to reach the quarter-finals last year and be highly competitive against Northampton Saints, but the game in Clermont is much bigger than last year's quarter-final,” said coach Neil Doak.

“We've got to go and get the monkey off our back by winning in France for the first time and we want to put ourselves in with a chance of a home draw in the last eight. Munster and Leinster are already there and it would be great for Irish rugby if we had three provinces in the quarter-finals for the first time. We have been building nicely towards this game and the players all know how important it is.”

Meanwhile, Clermont have made ten changes to the side that smashed Aironi 82-0 last week.

Flanker Julien Bardy is the only member of the pack to retain his place. He is joined in the back-row by Julien Bonnaire and Gerhard Vosloo while Nathan Hines and Julien Pierre form an all-international second-row.

Samoan hooker Ti'i Paulo must settle for a place on the bench with former Leicester Tiger Benjamin Kayser starting as coach Vern Cotter lines up his strongest scrummaging front-row.

French internationals Morgan Parra and David Skrela form the half-back duo and are joined in midfield by Wesley Fofana and Aurélien Rougerie, who are expected to start for Les Bleus in the Six Nations.

Lee Byrne, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Julien Malzieu – who scored eight tries between them last week – link up again in the back three.

Heineken Cup betting odds

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 David Skrela, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Julien Bonnaire, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Gerhard Vosloo, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Lionel Faure.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Coetzee, 19 Jamie Cudmore, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Kevin Senio, 22 Brock James, 23 Regan King

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Andi Kyriacou, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Nevin Spence, 23 Adam D'Arcy.

Date: Saturday, January 21
Kick-off: 16:40 (15:40 GMT)
Venue: Stade Marcel Michelin
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant referees: David Rose (England), Roy Maybank (England)
Television match official: Trevor Fisher (England)