Preview: Ospreys v Ulster

Date published: September 23 2011

Ulster have made just one change to their starting XV for this Sunday's PRO12 match against the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium .

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has made just one change to the starting XV for this Sunday's RaboDirect PRO12 match against the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium .

Luke Marshall has been called in to replace injured centre Darren Cave, who has been rested following a recurrence of a hamstring injury which plagued him for most of last season.

Marshall and Nevin Spence formed an impressive partnership last season with Cave out injured and Paddy Wallace on international duty, so it should cause minimal disruption to the Ulster midfield.

Ulster are boosted by the inclusion of Ian Humphreys who has been named at fly-half after shaking off a shoulder injury picked up in the win over Cardiff last week. The side is again led by captain Chris Henry at openside flanker, as McLaughlin has stuck with the forwards that dominated up front against Cardiff.

A rib injury has ruled out reserve scrum-half Ian Porter, whose position on the bench is taken by 19 year old Academy player Blane McIlroy. The only other change to the squad from Cardiff is the inclusion of Willie Faloon who will provide back row cover instead of Mike McComish.

Both sides go into the game unbeaten and are locked on 12 league points, just one behind leaders Munster.

McLaughlin is looking forward to the Ospreys challenge.

“They have won all their games so far this season too so it will be another tough game for us,” said the coach.

“If we play as well as we have been I see no reason why we can't get another win and that would put us in a really strong position. We lost by a point to them last season so there's no doubt it will be another big challenge for us.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Thomas will make his 150th appearance for Ospreys.

Prop Aaron Jarvis, hooker Scott Baldwin and flank James Goode make their PRO12 first starts for the Ospreys.

“Ulster will no doubt bring plenty of confidence with them after their good start to the season,” commented Ospreys Director of Coaching Scott Johnson.

“They have recruited well over the summer. Jared Payne in particular is a good signing who will bring something different to the table for them, and I'm expecting them to be there challenging on all fronts year after a good season last time.

“We saw from their performance against the Blues last week that they play good rugby and have a cutting edge, so we know that it's going to be a difficult afternoon.

“For our part, we need to lift our all round performance up a couple of notches from where we were last weekend against Treviso. Yes, we got another win to make it three from three but we rode our luck at times, particularly in the first half.

“The resolve and effort was first class though. The boys really dug in and toughed it out to get a win, and it's a win that we can really be happy with as it's a tough place to go. A lot of teams got a bloody nose there last season and no doubt will again this year, so it's pleasing to be able to come away with the points.

Form: Something has to give at Liberty Stadium as both Ospreys and Ulster have made 100 percent winning starts to the new RaboDirect PRO12 season. Ospreys only reversal in their last 14 home games in all competitions was 20-22 to Munster on 23 April. Ulster's only regular season defeat since February was 26-34 at Leinster on 16 April. The Ulstermen's only defeat in their last nine matches againstWelsh opponents was in this equivalent game at Liberty Stadium last season. Each team won its respective home game with the two sides met last season, whilst Ulster's record in previous visits to Liberty Stadium is won 2, lost 5.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Barry Davies, 14 Richard Fussell, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Justin Tipuric (C), 6 Tom Smith, 5 James Goode, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Cai Griffiths, 18 Joe Rees, 19 James King, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Matthew Morgan, 22 Sonny Parker, 23 Kristian Phillips.

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Nevin Spence, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Jerry Cronin, 2 Andy Kyriacou, 1 Declan Fitzpatrick.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 T Barker , 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Blane McIlroy, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Adam D'Arcy

Date: Sunday 25 September
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 16.30 BST (15.30 GMT)
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)