Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

Date published: March 1 2012

Brian McLaughlin has been forced into making several alterations to his Ulster starting XV for the visit of Edinburgh to Ravenhill on Friday.

Brian McLaughlin has been forced into making several alterations to his Ulster starting XV for the visit of Edinburgh to Ravenhill on Friday.

Nevin Spence is ruled out of the RaboDirect PRO12 clash with a hand injury, so McLaughlin has been forced to re-shuffle his backline.

Ian Whitten is moved from the wing to midfield, where he will partner captain Paddy Wallace while Stefan Terblanche moves to fill the wing berth vacated by Whitten, meaning Adam D'Arcy earns a recall at full-back. Paul Marshall and Ruan Pienaar will form the half back partnership for the second straight week, while Craig Gilroy is at 14.

There are fewer changes up front. Chris Henry will travel to Paris with the Ireland squad so Pedrie Wannenburg moved to the side of the scrum and Robbie Diack gets a run out at number eight. The front five is unchanged from the side that started in the 15-14 win over Ospreys last week.

With Simon Danielli also ruled out after picking up a hamstring injury against Ospreys, young backs Luke Marshall and Chris Cochrane are also named among the replacements. Neil McComb and Mike McComish have been called up to the bench to provide cover.

McLaughlin believes a win would be a boost to his side's hopes of reaching the play-offs.

“We were in the top four briefly last week and that's where we want to be. We need to be at our best but if we get the win it will give us something more to build on as were target the PRO12 semis. But Edinburgh are a very good team and they are ranked above us in Europe,” he said.

“They've proved how good they are by qualifying for the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup and they like to play a good style of rugby under Michael Bradley. We played very well against them at the turn of the year and we will have to produce something similar at Ravenhill. For us, the 20 minute period after half time will be crucial. That's when we have to step it up and keep improving through to the end of the match.”

McLaughlin is disappointed that the names of Spence and Danielli have been added to a growing injury list but insists it will provide opportunities for others to stake a claim.

“We have a bit of a break after this game so we are hoping to have quite a few of the injured players back for the match against Treviso later this month,” he added.

The Ulster coach is delighted to be playing at Ravenhill on consecutive weekends, where his side have lost only once in their last 18 matches.

“The players get a huge lift from playing in front of their home crowd and there is no doubt it has a positive effect on results. As always, we are determined to produce a performance for the fans and hopefully get the result,” concluded McLaughlin.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley has made four changes to his line-up.

Sep Visser, Phil Godman and John Houston come in for Chris Paterson, Gregor Hunter and the injured Jim Thompson (ankle), taking up the wing, fly-half and centre spots respectively.

Their introduction means Tom Brown reverts to his favoured full-back position and Matt Scott moves to outside centre to accommodate the incoming Visser and Houston.

Argentine cap Ulises Gamboa is the only change up front as he earns his first start for the club in place of Jack Gilding, who moves to the bench.

Other changes to the replacements see the return of Robin Hislop (prop) and Harry Leonard (fly-half) while lock Robert McAlpine could make his RaboDirect PRO12 debut if called upon.

Form: Ulster have lost just one of their last 18 encounters at Ravenhill in all competitions since December 2010: 12-23 to Treviso on 7 October. No Scottish side has beaten Ulster at Ravenhill since Glasgow were the visitors in December 2009. Edinburgh have suffered five straight defeats in the RaboDirect PRO12 since their 23-all draw at home to Glasgow on Boxing Day, whilst if they fail to win this game they will equal their record for the longest winless run – set in 2010. Ulster have won four of their last five fixtures with Edinburgh, whilst the Scotsmen have not been victorious at Ravenhill since September 2009.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Paddy Wallace (capt), 11 Stefan Terblanche, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Ian Humphreys, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Chris Cochrane.

Edinburgh: 15 Tom Brown, 14 Sep Visser ,13 Matt Scott, 12 John Houston, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Chris Leck, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Roddy Grant (capt), 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Ulises Gamboa, 2 Andrew Kelly, 1 Kyle Traynor.
Replacements: 16 Alun Walker, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Jack Gilding, 19 Robert McAlpine, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Alex Black, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Chris Paterson.

Date: Friday, March 2
Kick-off: 19:05
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock, Brian MacNeice
Citing Commissioner: Tom McCormack
TMO: Marshall Kilgore