Preview: Ulster v Edinburgh

Date published: October 2 2014

Jared Payne has recovered from injury and will start at outside centre for Ulster against Edinburgh at Ravenhill.

Jared Payne has recovered from injury and will start at outside centre for Ulster against Edinburgh at Ravenhill.

The inclusion of Payne is one of ten changes and two positional switches to the side that lost to Zebre in Italy last weekend.

Louis Ludik, Andrew Trimble, Payne and Paul Marshall all come into the backline, with Tommy Bowe switching from the right wing to the left.

Up front, loosehead Ruaidhri Murphy starts his first competitive match for Ulster, as does Hughes Insurance Academy lock Alan O’Connor.

Captain Rory Best returns to the side at hooker, with Wiehahn Herbst returning at tighthead.

Franco van der Merwe continues in the second row, while in the back row Robbie Diack returns at blindside, Chris Henry comes in at openside and Roger Wilson switches from blindside to Number 8.

Forwards, Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson and Nick Williams are named on the bench, as are backs Michael Heaney, Stuart Olding and Darren Cave.

Meanwhile, t here are four changes to the Edinburgh starting line-up, including the return from injury of club captain Mike Coman who will lead the side out for the first time this season.

Coman, who starts on the blindside, said: “I’m really excited to be back. It’s been a frustrating two weeks, not being able to play and I’m looking forward to the challenge of Ulster. They’re a very well balanced team with good attacking options all over the park.

“The boys have trained really well this week, though, and are determined to build on last week and put in a really good performance out there on Friday night.”

Elsewhere in the forwards, BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy Level 3 prop Rory Sutherland makes a first start at loosehead while Grant Gilchrist and Roddy Grant move from the bench to start at lock and openside respectively.

One change to the backs sees one of last week’s try scorers against Scarlets, Phil Burleigh, move from the bench to start at fly-half.

Full-back Greig Tonks is fully aware of the task in hand: “Ulster are always very strong at home and have a good record at Ravenhill. No doubt they’ll be well fired up and will be looking to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Zebre.”

Edinburgh’s last visit across the Irish Sea, the season opener against Munster, showed that the club are capable of beating an Irish province on their own turf, and though they beat Ulster at BT Murrayfield in 2013, they have not won in Belfast since September 2009.

Head coach Alan Solomons said: “Mike [Coman] returning as captain will be a boost to the team ahead of what will be a very challenging game against Ulster.

“Due to player management, Alasdair Dickinson is not available this week which gives a starting opportunity to young Rory Sutherland, with Allan Dell coming on to the bench.

“Meanwhile Phil Burleigh is given the chance to show what he can do in the key position of stand-off.

“We’re facing a full-strength Ulster team who will be smarting after their loss to Zebre last weekend and will be going all out to redress the defeat.”

Form: Ulster suffered a first defeat of their Guinness PRO12 campaign against Zebre in Parma on Saturday. Ulster’s only defeat in their last eleven PRO12 encounters in Belfast came against Leinster on 2nd May. Edinburgh drew 20-all at home to Scarlets on Friday, their first tie since Glasgow visited the home of Scottish Rugby on Boxing Day 2011. The Scotsmen have already beaten an Irish province on their own soil this season, lowering the colours of Munster in Limerick in Round 1. Edinburgh’s only victory over Ulster in their last seven meetings in all tournaments was 14-8 at Murrayfield in the PRO12 on 22nd March 2013. The Scotsmen have not won in Belfast since September 2009.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Stuart McCIoskey, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Ruaidhri Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Darren Cave

Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Phil Burleigh, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (c), 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 John Andress, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nell, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Nick McLennan.

Date: Friday, October 3
Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Claudio Blessano (FIR, 7th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Brian MacNeice (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (IRFU)