Preview: Ulster v Leicester

Date published: January 12 2012

Ulster and Leicester will do battle for control of Heineken Cup Pool Four in Friday's mouthwatering clash at Ravenhill.

Ulster and Leicester will do battle for control of Heineken Cup Pool Four in Friday's mouthwatering clash at Ravenhill.

The winner of the clash between the two former champions will take a step towards qualify for the knockout stages.

Only three points separate Ulster, Leicester and Clermont Auvergne and all of them will have genuine ambitions of making the quarter-finals.

The Tigers, who have won one and lost one in the Heineken Cup against Ulster, will be aiming to keep their campaign on track with an away victory in a bid to reach their ninth quarter-final in the tournament.

In team news Ian Humphreys and Pedrie Wannenburg have won their fitness battles and have been named in Ulster Head Coach Brian McLaughlin's starting XV.

Both players left the field earlier in last week's PRO12 match against Edinburgh at Murrayfield, Humphreys with a hamstring injury and Wannenburg with an ankle injury.

The starting XV shows just one change from that named ahead of last week's match against Edinburgh, with Paddy Wallace, who made a 20 minute cameo on his return from a hand injury named in the centre. He replaces Ian Whitten, who moves to the bench.

“The whole team has performed well in recent weeks but we have worked on a few things in training this week to ensure that we are in peak condition and are raring to go.” said McLaughlin

“The game at Welford Road in Round 2 was very tight and we were really disappointed to come away with nothing.

To beat Leicester, you have to beat them up front. They play a game based on their set-piece, and that aspect of the game will be crucial for us.”

Elsewhere amongst the replacements Nigel Brady is preferred to Andi Kyriacou to cover the hooker berth and will make his 100th appearance for Ulster should he take the field during the game.

Meanwhile, Marcos Ayerza and Martin Castrogiovanni return to the Leicester Tigers front row.

Director of rugby Richard Cockerill retains the same backline that started last Saturday's win over London Wasps, but makes alterations in the front row with Ayerza and Castrogiovanni joining Rob Hawkins.

“We've got a couple of guys back from injury and we've rotated the squad over the last few weeks so we go there fresh and ready,” said Cockerill.

“We've been going well recently and that good form allows us to take some confidence in our game.

“It will be tough because Ulster are a good team and it is a very tough pool. It is a must-win game for both sides. At this stage of the Heineken Cup that is what it is all about.”

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Adam D'Arcy

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Jules Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Ben Woods, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Scott Hamilton.

Date: Friday, January 13
Venue: Ravenhill, Belfast
Kick-off: 20.00 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite