Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

Date published: November 1 2012

Edinburgh will be led by lock forward Sean Cox when they run out to face Ulster at Ravenhill in their RaboDirect PRO12 meeting on Friday.

Edinburgh will be led by lock forward Sean Cox when they walk out to meet in-form Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday.

Of the 12 players selected for Scotland's Test matches next month, Grant Gilchrist, Stuart McInally and Lee Jones return to the starting side. Meanwhile prop Allan Jacobsen continues his recovery from a hamstring injury on the bench.

With Greig Laidlaw unavailable, Cox assumes the captaincy, and starts at blindside in a new-look back-row, with seven Roddy Grant and McInally.

Robert McAlpine steps into the second-row berth vacated by Cox to partner former age-grade international colleague, Gilchrist, while the front-row trio of John Yapp, Andy Titterrell and Willem Nel remains unchanged.

Despite the international obligations, the club's back three has a familiar feel as Jones lines up along side this season's ever-present full-back Greig Tonks and wing Tom Brown.

John Houston returns to partner inbound centre James King, who starts his first match of the season, and stand-off Gregor Hunter replaces the injured Harry Leonard to partner Chris Leck, whose composed performance against Scarlets is rewarded with a recall.

Other noteworthy inclusions see new lock Izak van der Westhuizen available to make his debut from the bench, while Hamish Watson and Sep Visser could also make their first competitive appearances of the season.

“There are couple of players who have been knocking at the door for selection and this game gives them an opportunity to prove that they're a serious contender for matches going forward. If they produce wins for the club, then there's no reason why they can't stay in the side,” said coach Michael Bradley.

“Izak [van der Westhuizen] is a quality player and a pretty robust character in terms of his ball carrying.

“He moves well as we saw in training yesterday though it was a tough day for him after stepping off the plane, into a medical, and then out to training.

“He's enthusiastic and desperate to play, and will bring an added a physical dimension to our game, which we're looking forward seeing.”

Meanwhile, Ricky Andrew will make his first start for Ulster after being named at full-back for the RaboDirect PRO12 encounter. Andrew is one of nine personnel changes to the starting team which won away to Dragons last weekend, with seven of those in the pack.

Coach Mark Anscombe has named a relatively inexperienced bench, which includes development prop Ricky Lutton, who will earn his first ever cap if he is used on Friday.

With Andrew earning his second cap at fullback, Jared Payne has switched to outside centre, a position he occupied on a regular basis for his previous club the Blues. Chris Cochrane will make his fourth appearance for Ulster after being named on the right wing, with Craig Gilroy on the left flank. The half-back pairing of Paul Marshall and Ruan Pienaar remains unchanged from last weekend, while Paddy Wallace will start alongside Payne.

Nigel Brady will captain the team from hooker in an all-new front-row which includes Callum Black and John Afoa. Lewis Stevenson retains his place in the second-row and is joined in the engine room by Neil McComb. Stephen Ferris has returned from a back injury to take his place at blindside flanker, with Mike McComish and Roger Wilson coming in at openside flanker and number eight respectively.

Lutton is joined by fellow Belfast Harlequins front-row players Niall Annett and Adam Macklin on the replacements bench. Robbie Diack will provide cover for second row and back row after recovering from a leg injury, with Nick Williams the other forward replacement. Young Academy members Stuart Olding and Peter Nelson, along with fly-half Niall O'Connor, are the backline replacements.

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Form: Unbeaten Ulster continue to set the pace atop the RaboDirect PRO12 table, and have a perfect played 8, won 8 record in all competitions this season. The Ulstermen's single loss at Ravenhill in the last 12 months was 8-16 to Leinster on 20 April. No Scottish side has won at Ravenhill since Glasgow were the visitors on 4 December 2009. Edinburgh have slipped to six successive reversals in all competitions since beating Zebre 41-10 at Murrayfield on 14 September. The Scotsmen have lost their last ten fixtures against Irish provinces, and have not been victorious in Ireland since a visit to their opponents, Ulster, on 18 September 2009. Ulster's only defeat in their last seven encounters with Edinburgh was 16-21 at Murrayfield on 22 October 2010.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Chris Cochrane, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady (capt), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ricky Lutton, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Niall O'Connor, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Peter Nelson.

Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 John Houston, 12 James King, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Chris Leck, 8 Stuart McInally, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Sean Cox (capt), 5 Robert McAlpine, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Andy Titterrell, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Alun Walker, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Lewis Niven, 19 Izak van der Westhuizen, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Dougie Fife, 23 Sep Visser.

Date: Friday, November 2
Kick-off: 19:05 GMT
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Brian Macneice (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)