Preview: Ulster v Clermont

Date published: November 11 2011

Ulster have named an unchanged team for their opening Heineken Cup Pool 4 match against Clermont Auvergne on Saturday.

Ulster have named an unchanged XV for their opening Heineken Cup Pool 4 match against Clermont on Saturday.

Captain Johann Muller and Ireland players Tom Court and Stephen Ferris have all shaken off injuries picked up during the win over Connacht.

There are two changes among the replacements with Declan Fitzpatrick returning from injury in place of Adam Macklin and Willie Faloon coming in for Robbie Diack.

New signing John Afoa will make his European debut, just a week after making his first start for Ulster. The World Cup winner is surrounded by experience up front, with all eight forwards players having been capped at international level.

With Ruan Pienaar injured, Paul Marshall will again be handed the scrumhalf jersey and is partnered at half back by Ian Humphreys. Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave form the centre combination, while Simon Danielli will continue in the relatively unfamiliar fullback role.

Clermont have made good progress in the Top 14 despite having 12 players on World Cup duty in New Zealand. They currently trail Toulouse by just one point after 10 rounds, highlighting the difficulty of the task laying ahead for Ulster.

Brian McLaughlin is delighted to have Muller, Court and Ferris available and he can now name the same starting XV for the second consecutive week.

“To have the three guys available is a brilliant boost for us, you need your key players on the pitch. We have some people in the squad who are understandably disappointed at missing out, but it shows the quality we have assembled,” he said.

“Continuity is very important and it gives us momentum going into what is a massive game for us.

“Clermont are an exceptional side, they've proved that with their results in the Top 14. We are going to focus on us, cut out the errors and try to be a bit more clinical when opportunities arise.”

Meanwhile, Clermont have included Aurélien Rougerie in their line-up alongside former Scarlets midfield man Regan King. New summer signing David Skrela directs from fly-half with international number nine Morgan Parra also named in his regular position.

Like King, Lee Byrne will also make his European debut in the yellow shirt on Saturday.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Simon Danielli, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 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 Paddy McAllister, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Nevin Spence, 23 Adam D'Arcy.

Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Regan King, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 David Skrela, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Elvis Vermeulen, 7 Gerhard Vosloo, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Lionel Faure.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Clément Ric, 18 Mattheus Kotze, 19 Jason White, 20 Julien Bardy, 21 Kevin Senio, 22 Brock James, 23 Jean-Marcel Buttin.

Date: Saturday, November 12
Kick-off: 15:40
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)