Preview: Ulster v Glasgow Warriors

Date published: February 17 2017

Ulster’s starting XV is bolstered by the return of scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, plus the inclusion of Irish internationals Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall and Tommy Bowe.

Pienaar will make his first appearance of 2017, having recovered from a knee injury sustained in the New Year’s Eve fixture away to Leinster. The South African will partner Pete Nelson at half-back, with the latter successfully coming through the full 80 minutes in last weekend’s victory over Edinburgh, following a 14-month layoff.

Gilroy, who shone with a 14-minute hat-trick for Ireland versus Italy, will join Bowe and Louis Ludik, one of Ulster’s four try-scorers versus Edinburgh, in the back three.

Luke Marshall comes into the side at outside centre, meaning Darren Cave shifts inside to occupy the number 12 jersey.

Up front, Callum Black will start at loosehead prop alongside John Andrew and Ricky Lutton in the front row, while Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe will renew their second row partnership.

Marcell Coetzee, who put in a hugely impressive debut for Ulster last week, retains his starting berth at number 8, with Sean Reidy and Chris Henry playing in the other loose forward positions.

Club captain Rob Herring has suitably recovered from injury to take up a place among the replacements along with fellow forwards Andy Warwick, Wiehahn Herbst, Kieran Treadwell and Robbie Diack.

Academy player Jack Owens, who has featured at wing and full-back for the Ulster ‘A’ team in this season’s British & Irish Cup, is in line to make his senior debut if called upon. Paul Marshall and Jacob Stockdale will provide the additional backline cover from the bench.

Meanwhile, Peter Horne returns from injury to start at fly-half for Glasgow Warriors.

Fresh from signing a new three-year-contract with Glasgow, Horne makes his return to the Warriors starting XV following a spell on the side-lines with an ankle injury.

The Scotland international’s return to fitness comes ahead of schedule following successful surgery on an injury sustained the PRO12 fixture against Munster at the start of December.

Brandon Thomson will make his Glasgow Warriors debut at full-back having joined the club last week on a short-term deal from the Stormers.

Lee Jones and Sean Lamont start outside of Thomson on the wings and Mark Bennett returns from international duty to start outside of Nick Grigg in the centres.

Henry Pyrgos will pair up with the returning Horne, captaining the side at scrum-half.

In the front-row Sila Puafisi returns to the starting XV at tighthead, with James Malcolm at hooker and Alex Allan at loosehead.

Once again Brian Alainu’uese and Scott Cummings combine in the second row and at openside flanker Simone Favaro is released from Italy duty to play his first game for the Warriors since the beginning of January. Rob Harley and Adam Ashe start as the other loose forwards.

On the bench Namibian international Tjiuee Uanivi features for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the reverse fixture against Ulster back in September.

Hooker Corey Flynn is called up to the bench and Rory Hughes will cover the back-three.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Peter Horne is one of our hardest working players and a leader on and off the pitch, so his return will give everyone a boost. It’s a credit to our medical staff that Peter and Tjiuee (Uanivi) are both available for what is a crucial match.”

“Brandon (Thomson) has integrated really well since his arrival and showed a good level of physicality while playing for Stirling County at the weekend. He has a very good rugby brain and is a quick learner, and is relishing the opportunity to play for the club.

“It’s also great to be able to include Mark (Bennett) and Simone (Favaro) who both played Test match rugby last weekend. We will require everyone in our squad to play with huge commitment, effort and belief as we look to bounce back from last week’s disappointing result.”

Form: Ulster’s 24-18 victory over Edinburgh at the weekend ended a four game losing streak in all tournaments. The Ulstermen have lost only once at Kingspan Stadium in their last nine PRO12 matches: 14-15 to Munster in Round 7. Glasgow Warriors’ 14-26 home defeat to Scarlets in Round 14 ended a three game winning run in the competition. Warriors have won their last four away games in all competitions since slipping up at Scarlets in the PRO12 on 5 November. Ulster beat Glasgow 22-17 at Scotstoun in Round 4 and have not achieved a PRO12 season’s double over the Scotsmen since 2010/11. Warriors have won just once in Belfast since 2009: 13-12 in September 2013.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Marcel Coetzee, 7 Chris Henry (c), 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 John Andrew, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Jacob Stockdale, 23 Jack Owens

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Brandon Thomson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Nick Grigg, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Brian Alainu’uese, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 James Malcolm,1 Alex Allan
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Tjiuee Uanivi, 20 Lewis Wynne, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Richie Vernon, 23 Rory Hughes

Date: Saturday, February 18
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)