Preview: Edinburgh v Ulster

Date published: March 20 2014

Stephen Ferris continues his much-anticipated comeback for Ulster with a starting berth for Friday's PRO12 clash with Edinburgh.

Stephen Ferris continues his much-anticipated comeback for Ulster with a starting berth for Friday's PRO12 clash with Edinburgh.

Ferris played 20 minutes against the Scarlets last week and is selected at blindside flanker as he continues his phased return to play from the ankle injury he suffered in November 2012.

Jared Payne is selected at full-back, with Tommy Bowe, who has scored three tries in two matches since his own return from injury, picked on the right wing.

Craig Gilroy is named on the left wing, in place of Rory Scholes, with Darren Cave named at outside centre and Luke Marshall returning to the starting lineup at inside centre having recovered from a head injury.

Paddy Jackson starts at fly-half with Michael Heaney named at scrum-half in place of the injured Ruan Pienaar.

Tom Court is selected at loosehead alongside Rob Herring and John Afoa in the front row.

Johann Muller captains Ulster from the second row where he is joined by Iain Henderson, who was a second half substitute for Ireland in the Six Nations win over France.

Ferris is joined in the back row by Roger Wilson who moves from blindside to number eight, with Sean Doyle continuing at openside.

Ireland lock, Dan Tuohy, is named as a substitute having recovered from the broken arm that he sustained playing for the international side against Wales.

Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy loosehead prop, Andrew Warwick, is also named as a replacement. The 23 year-old will make his first appearance for Ulster if called upon.

Joining Tuohy and Warwick on the bench are forwards Niall Annett, Ricky Lutton, Nick Williams and Robbie Diack and backs Paul Marshall and Stuart McCloskey.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh head coach Head coach Alan Solomons has made three personnel changes to his team named for the Murrayfield clash.

The club have won five of their last six PRO12 fixtures at home, including notable scalps of Leinster and Ospreys, however the Ulstermen's 41-17 win at Ravenhill in November will still be fresh in the memory of the Murrayfield men.

While believing the club have continued to make progress this season, Solomons was under no illusions about the enormity of the task presented by the unbeaten Heineken Cup quarter-finalists.

“Ulster are probably one of the top three or four teams in Europe, there's no question about that,” said Solomons.

“It's a great challenge for us. We feel that, as a group, we have improved as the season has gone on, and look forward to the kind of challenges presented by the top teams.

“We looked forward to Ospreys and got the result because we delivered a good performance.

“The same thing applies to this game, however I would say that Ulster are stronger than the Ospreys and will therefore require an even better performance from the players.”

The club are without rested international trio David Denton, Matt Scott and Greig Laidlaw, but welcome the inclusion of props Willem Nel and Alasdair Dickinson – the latter returning from Scotland's Six Nations campaign – in an otherwise unchanged forward pack.

The third personnel change sees Tom Brown take a place on the wing, having recovered from the thigh strain that kept him out of the Ospreys match.

His inclusion allows Jack Cuthbert to return to his favoured full-back position, while trialist Carl Bezuidenhout will orchestrate the backline from stand-off.

The back division is completed by scrum-half Grayson Hart, who scored a brace in his last appearance, centres Andries Strauss and Sam Beard – another scorer last time out – and wing Dougie Fife, who makes his first outing as a capped internationalist after his Scotland debut last weekend.

The personnel changes mean Wicus Blaauw, Harry Leonard and elite development prop Ewan McQuillin – the latter who could make his debut if brought into the fray – are selected on the bench, while Nick De Luca begins his return from a head knock as a replacement.

Form: Edinburgh Rugby's 31-25 victory over Ospreys at Meggetland in round 16 ended a three match losing run. Edinburgh have won four of their last five PRO12 fixtures at Murrayfield.

The Scotsmen have won their last three home games against Irish provinces in all competitions.

Ulster Rugby have won their last seven matches in all tournaments since their loss to Leinster at the RDS in round 11 of the PRO12.

Ulster have secured bonus point victories in their last two PRO12 games, over Dragons and Scarlets.

The last four matches between the two sides in the PRO12 have all been won by the home side on the day whilst the Ulstermen's most recent victory at Edinburgh came in January 2012.

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Carl Bezuidenhout, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (c), 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Al Dickinson
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blauw, 18 Ewan McQuillin, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Nick De Luca

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ricky Lutton 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Robbie Diack, 22 Paul Marshall, 23 Stuart McCloskey

Date: Friday 21st March
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 1945 (local & GMT)
Referee: John Lacey (Ire)
Assistant referees: Neil Paterson, Bob Nevins (both Sco)