Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

Date published: November 21 2013

Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has made two changes to the Edinburgh starting side for the Pro12 clash with Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday.

Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has made two changes to the Edinburgh starting side for the Pro12 clash with Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday.

The match is the first time the South African has faced the club he successfully coached for three seasons (2001 to 2004) since moving to Edinburgh in August from Super Rugby side the Southern Kings.

The Irishmen reached the knockout rounds of the Celtic League every year Solomons was at the helm, twice made the Celtic Cup final (lifting the trophy in 2003) and enjoyed a three-year unbeaten home record in the Heineken Cup.

The Murrayfield men do however travel with some confidence, having won three wins in the last four in all competitions.

“I'm certainly looking forward to going back to Ravenhill,” said Solomons.

“I've got very fond memories of Ulster and haven't been there for a number of years, so I'm really looking forward to it.

“Away fixtures in the Pro12 are always tough and Ulster are a side that have been built over 10 or 12 years to become one of the top sides in Europe.

“They were in the Pro12 final last year, the Heineken Cup final the year before that and have ambitions to win these competitions.

“We are a side that is rebuilding and are at a different place at this point.

“For me, this is going to be a really tough fixture but presents these players with an opportunity to build on their performance against Zebre in a tougher fixture, against a highly ranked side at a very tough venue.”

The club's two changes see second-row Ollie Atkins handed his first start in the place of Grant Gilchrist – starting for Scotland in Saturday's November Test against Australia – while scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne comes in for the injured Sean Kennedy (knee), with Grayson Hart ready to make his debut from the bench.

Lock Ben Toolis could also mark his debut with a replacement appearance, while full-back/wing Tom Brown returns to the squad for the first time since injuring his ankle in the pre-season clash with Newcastle Falcons in August.

Meanwhile, Ireland internationals, Craig Gilroy and Iain Henderson have recovered from injury and have been named in Mark Anscombe's starting Ulster XV.

Gilroy starts at fullback alongside Andrew Trimble and Michael Allen in the back three.

Luke Marshall and Darren Cave have both been released by Ireland and start in midfield with James McKinney and Paul Marshall selected in the half-backs.

Callum Black, Rob Herring and John Afoa are named in an unchanged front row, with Lewis Stevenson and Henderson starting in the second-row.

Robbie Diack captains Ulster for the first time and is selected at blindside flanker. Sean Doyle, who was man of the match for the Ravens last week, is picked at openside and Nick Williams starts at number eight.

Ireland internationals, Tom Court, Dan Tuohy and Roger Wilson are named on a strong bench which also includes Niall Annett, Ricky Lutton, Ian Porter, Peter Nelson and Ricky Andrew.

“It was a bit of a shock when Mark called out the team and I was captain, ” admitted Diack.

“It is a tremendous honour. I am hugely excited to be leading out such a talented bunch of guys and hopefully we can get the win.”

Form: Ulster's six game winning run in all competitions ended when they visited Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 on 2 November. The Ulstermen's only defeat at Ravenhill Stadium since February was 12-13 to Glasgow on 13 September. Ulster have been defeated in their last three encounters with Scottish opponents. Edinburgh have won their last two PRO12 matches against Treviso and Zebre with both games being played at Murrayfield. The Scotsmen have won only once on the road since last December: 9-7 at Zebre in March. Edinburgh have beaten an Irish province on their own soil just once since 2009: 24-23 against Connacht in Galway in December 2012. Each side won its respective home game when they met in the PRO12 last season whilst Edinburgh have not been victorious in Belfast since September 2009.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Craig Gilroy,14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Michael Allen, 10 James McKinney, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum BlackReplacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Ricky Andrew.

Edinburgh: 15 Greg Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Joaquin Dominguez, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Jack Cuthbert, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant (c), 6 Tomas Leonardi, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 WP Nel, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Wicus Blaauw
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Ross Rennie, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Tom Brown

Date: Friday, November 22
Kick-off: 19:05 GMT
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Assessor: Jack Young (Ireland)