Preview: Ulster v Dragons

Date published: October 31 2014

Ulster boss Neil Doak has made seven changes and two positional switches to his side for Saturday’s clash with the Dragons.

Ulster coach Neil Doak has made seven changes and two positional switches to his starting XV for Saturday’s clash with the Dragons at Ravenhill.

Stuart Olding has been released from Ireland camp and starts the game at full-back. Louis Ludik switches from full-back to the right wing with Darren Cave selected at outside centre and Stuart McCloskey picked at inside centre.

Peter Nelson is named on the left wing and plays his first game of the season for Ulster, while Paddy Jackson and Paul Marshall continue in the half-backs.

Up front, Callum Black starts at loosehead, Rob Herring is named at hooker and Wiehahn Herbst continues at tighthead prop.

The second row is unchanged with Lewis Stevenson selected alongside Franco van der Merwe.

Clive Ross is named at blindside flanker, while Sean Reidy is selected at openside and makes his competitive debut for the province.

Roger Wilson, who will play his 163rd game for his province captains the side from number eight.

Forwards John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb and Robbie Diack are selected on the bench as are backs Michael Heaney, Ian Humphreys and Ricky Andrew.

Meanwhile, new signing Rhys Williams has been named in the Dragons starting XV for this clash.

The 26-year-old centre, who has signed from Carmarthen Quins on a month-long loan, commented: “The step up from Premiership to British and Irish Cup is big and it will be the same again (from British and Irish Cup to regional rugby) but I am looking forward to it. It will be a big challenge at Ulster but I can’t wait and feel I am ready for it.

“I’d like to think that I am a direct centre and that I put my tackles in, I’ve played 12 most of my career but can also slot in at 13.”

Including Williams, Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones, has made seven changes to the team that faced Newcastle Falcons in Round two of the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

Jason Tovey, who recently played for Premiership side Cross Keys at full-back, has made the move into the back three and is joined by wings Matthew Pewtner and Aled Brew.

The centre pairing takes on the new shape of Rhys Williams and Ashley Smith. Halfbacks Angus O’Brien and Richie Rees retain their places as fly-half and fullback.

The front row sees the return of Boris Stankovich and Thomas Rhys Thomas who join tight head prop Dan Way. They are joined in the front five by locks James Thomas and Rynard Landman, the latter taking on the role of captain.

The back row has two changes as Lewis Evans is joined by young gun James Benjamin and British and Irish Lion Andy Powell.

The replacement bench has five changes as youngsters Elliot Dee, Scott Andrews, Ollie Griffiths, Geraint Rhys Jones and Ashton Hewitt join Owen Evans, Lloyd Fairbrother and Jonathan Evans.

Form: Ulster’s single loss in the PRO12 this season came in Round Four against Zebre in Parma, whilst the Ulstermen have been defeated just once in Belfast in the tournament in their last 13 matches – 20-22 to Leinster on 2 May. No Welsh region has won in Ulster since Ospreys were the visitors in February 2013. The Dragons have won only once in the PRO12 this season – 33-15 at home to Treviso in Round Four. The Welshmen have not been victorious on the road in the competition since visiting Glasgow in November 2013. The Men from Gwent have beaten Ulster just once in their last five meetings – 15-8 at Rodney Parade in the opening round last season, whilst the Welshmen’s most recent victory in Belfast was 16-14 on 19 September 2008.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Stuart Olding, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Peter Nelson, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson (c); 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Calum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Ricky Andrew.

Dragons: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Rhys Williams, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Andy Powell. 7 James Benjamin, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Rynard Landman (c), 4 James Thomas, 3 Dan Way, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Scott Andrews, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Geraint Rhys Jones,23 Ashton Hewitt.

Date: Saturday, November 1
Venue: Ravenhill
Kickoff: 19:35 local (GMT)
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)