Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

Date published: February 9 2017

Marcell Coetzee will make his highly-anticipated bow for Ulster against Edinburgh after recovering from a knee injury sustained last April.

The South African, capped 28 times at international level, will start at number eight in Friday’s vital PRO12 match at Kingspan Stadium.

Peter Nelson, who sustained a significant midfoot injury against the Scottish outfit back in December 2015, will make his first Ulster appearance in 15 months after being named to start at fly-half.

Stuart Olding is another player making his return from injury, having not featured since the Exeter fixture in October – he will link up with Darren Cave in midfield.

Nelson will be partnered by Paul Marshall at half-back, with Charles Piutau, Jacob Stockdale and Louis Ludik making up the back three.

Up front, John Andrew will make just his third senior start after being selected at hooker, where he will be joined in an all-Ballymena front-row by Andy Warwick and Ricky Lutton.

Kieran Treadwell and Alan O’Connor are paired in the second row, with Robbie Diack and Chris Henry joining Coetzee in the back-row.

The versatile Sean Reidy is in line to make his 50th appearance for the province after being named among the replacements, while hooker Jonny Murphy will earn a second cap if called upon by Kiss.

Wiehahn Herbst has also recovered from injury (calf) and will provide additional forward cover from the bench, with Callum Black and Pete Browne also included.

Stuart McCloskey and Tommy Bowe have been released by the Ireland management and along with Dave Shanahan, they complete the match day squad.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s acting head coach Duncan Hodge has made one personnel change to his starting team.

Fijian back-row Viliame Mata is set to pack down on the blindside flank in his first PRO12 start since his side’s 28-17 victory over the Ulstermen in November.

“We’ve named a settled side to head to Belfast, for what will be a tough encounter against a strong Ulster side,” said Hodge.

“As a squad, we were frustrated with last week’s result against Munster, and know the last 20 minutes of the game let us down. The aim is to make amends and perform positively and consistently for the whole 80 minutes this week.

“Ulster is always a great fixture and we look forward to going over there and showing our intent from the first whistle.”

Blair Kinghorn and Damien Hoyland both make their 13th consecutive start in the side, with Tom Brown taking up a spot on the wing to join them in the back-three.

Chris Dean and Phil Burleigh continue as the centre combination, while Sean Kennedy and Jason Tovey are named as the half-backs.

Neil Cochrane continues as captain and hooker, with Jack Cosgrove and Murray McCallum taking up the loosehead and tighthead prop berths respectively.

Ben Toolis continues at lock alongside Fraser McKenzie while Magnus Bradbury moves from the blindside flank to number eight to accommodate for Mata, with John Hardie completing the back-row as openside flanker.

Form: Ulster’s only victory in their last six matches in all tournaments was 23-7 at home to Connacht in the Guinness PRO12 on 23 December. Ulster have lost just once at Kingspan Stadium in the PRO12 since last February, and that was by a single point to Munster in round 7 this season. Edinburgh’s single point defeat at home to Munster on Friday ended a three game winning run in all competitions. The Scotsmen won their most recent away game in the Guinness PRO12 at Zebre on New Year’s Eve, to end a run of seven straight defeats on the road in the tournament. Edinburgh beat Ulster 28-17 at BT Murrayfield in round eight of the Guinness PRO12 and have only once before achieved a season’s double over the Irish province – in 2007/08. Edinburgh’s most recent victory in Belfast was 16-13 in the PRO12 in September 2009.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Jacob Stockdale, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Chris Henry (c), 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Callum Black, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Pete Browne, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Stuart McCloskey, 23 Tommy Bowe

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 John Hardie, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Neil Cochrane (c), 1 Jack Cosgrove
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Nick Beavon, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Viliami Fihaki, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Rory Scholes

Date: Friday, February 10
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)

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