Preview: Edinburgh v Ulster

Date published: January 5 2012

Ulster have been boosted by the return of a number of key players for Friday's Pro12 clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

Ulster have been boosted by the return of a number of key players for Friday's Pro12 clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

Brian McLaughlin welcomes back his international contingent, with Andrew Trimble, Stephen Ferris, Tom Court and Rory Best all returning to the starting XV having missed the inter-provincial games over the festive period.

Trimble's return sees Craig Gilroy shift to the left wing and Stefan Terblanche move back to full-back, with Adam D'Arcy the player making way. Ian Whitten and Darren Cave again form the centre partnership, while Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys continue as half backs.

Best and Court are included in the front row in place of Andi Kyriacou and the injured Paddy McAllister. They are joined by All Black prop John Afoa, who picked up the man of the match award in the 33-17 win over Munster last weekend.

Stephen Ferris's inclusion on the blindside flank results in Chris Henry moving to the openside berth, while Pedrie Wannenburg remains at number eight, meaning Willie Faloon has to settle for a place on the bench.

Paddy Wallace has returned to the squad after seven weeks on the sidelines with tendon damage in his thumb.

“It's a crucial game for us, not only in terms of the PRO12, but also with Europe in mind next week,” said McLaughlin.

“We must keep winning games in the PRO12 to put ourselves back in contention. Edinburgh have been playing well this season and like to play a good brand of rugby, but we will be looking to put in a quality performance and getting the result.”

“It's been great having the internationals back, including Paddy (Wallace). It really gives us a boost coming into such important games and they will bring a bit extra to the team. They're itching to get involved again and we are looking forward to having them back in.”

McLaughlin admits that he was faced with some tough decisions in terms of selection this week:

“Adam D'Arcy has been playing very well over the past few matches but Stefan has a bit more experience and we wanted to give him an opportunity to impress at full-back. With Andrew coming back in it gave us an opportunity to rotate a bit and make use of the strong squad we've assembled.”

Meanwhile, Edinburgh are looking to leapfrog their championship rivals.

“Like us, Ulster have so far enjoyed a successful Heineken Cup campaign but have not been as convincing in the RaboDirect PRO12, though they clearly took a big step towards addressing that last weekend against Munster [beating the champions 33-17],” said head coach Michael Bradley.

“Success tomorrow would clearly give us the winning momentum we desire going into the Heineken Cup however that itself is not the objective. First and foremost this is about winning in the RaboDirect PRO12.”

Fly-half Phil Godman is the only back to retain a starting spot from last weekend's 17-12 defeat to Glasgow Warriors, where his drop-goal secured a losing bonus-point on the stroke of full-time.

The recently honoured Chris Paterson MBE returns to start the match at full-back and is joined by incoming centres James King and Nick De Luca.

Their selection sees Jim Thompson and Matt Scott move to the bench and the injured John Houston (neck strain) drop from the squad.

The back-line is completed by the return of PRO12 top try-scorer Tim Visser and Tom Brown, who returns from injury (dead leg) seeking to continue his try-scoring form from the opposite wing.

In the pack the club's all-international front-row of Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford and Geoff Cross are set to start in place of props Jack Gilding and Kyle Traynor, who start on the bench.

Ford's reintroduction means Andrew Kelly drops out of the squad as young hooker Alun Walker retains his place on the bench.

Esteban Lozada and Sean Cox start in the second-row as a straight swap for Grant Gilchrist (who moves to the bench) and the injured Steven Turnbull (ankle).

There's only one personnel change to the back-row which sees Roddy Grant replace Alan MacDonald, whose impressive display against Glasgow earned him a place on the bench ahead of Ross Rennie.

Form: Edinburgh have won just one of their last four games in the RaboDirect PRO12: 50-10 at home to Aironi on 2 December. Edinburgh's only defeat at Murrayfield in their last seven encounters in all competitions was 28-36 to tabletopping Leinster on 28 October. Ulster have lost only one of their last five matches in all competitions: 13-42 at Leinster on 26 December. The Ulstermen's solitary away win since September was 46-20 over Aironi in Monza in the Heineken Cup on 17 December. Edinburgh's solo victory in their last four encounters with Ulster came in their last meeting, on 22 October 2010 at Murrayfield.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Tom Brown, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 James King, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c) 8 Netani Talei, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Esteban Lozada, 4 Sean Cox, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Alun Walker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jack Gilding, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Alan MacDonald, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Matt Scott, 23 Jim Thompson.

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Ian Whitten, 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 Paddy Wallace, 23 Adam D'Arcy

Date: Friday, 6 January
Venue: tMurrayfield
Kick-off: 19.30 GMT
Referee: George Clancy