Preview: Ulster v Munster

Date published: September 14 2012

Rob Penney has made three alterations to the Munster pack ahead of their mouth-watering PRO12 meeting with Ulster at Ravenhill.

Coach Rob Penney has made three alterations to the Munster pack ahead of Friday's PRO12 clash with Ulster at Ravenhill.

In the front-row, Dave Kilcoyrne and BJ Botha, who will face his former side, come into the starting XV in place of Wian du Preez and Stephen Archer respectively.

Donncha O'Callaghan joins Billy Holland in the second-row while there are no changes to the back-row.

Irish internationals Conor Murray, Ronan O'Gara and Keith Earls are amongst the replacements as they return to club duty.

Niall Ronan returns to competitive action with the Munster A team that take on the Ulster Ravens side on Friday, eight months after rupturing a cruciate knee ligament.

New boy Casey Laulala is relishing Munster's first all-Ireland clash of the season.

“Ulster are a very good side,” he said.

“The crowd is a big factor especially up there and they have been a big factor in their success over the last few years.

“We're aware of that. We're preparing for a big match and I think it'll be the first really big test for us as well in terms of what we want to do.”

Meanwhile, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has made seven changes to his starting line-up.

Stephen Ferris has been named at blindside flanker and will earn his 100th cap for the Province.

Elsewhere in the pack, Tom Court, John Afoa and Nigel Brady will start in an all new front-row, replacing Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick and Rob Herring respectively.

In the backs, Andrew Trimble has been promoted to a starting berth on the right wing, replacing Craig Gilroy.

Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson, who were also on the bench last week, will combine at half-back in place of Michael Heaney and Niall O'Connor.

Ireland internationals Chris Henry and Dan Tuohy have not been included in the match day squad despite being named in the extended squad on Tuesday.

Anscombe revealed that the duo will instead get a run out for Ulster Ravens against Munster A earlier in the afternoon.

“It's important for us to get them some game time so the Ravens is a good start,” he said.

“Chris has only been training with the team for two weeks and has had very little contact. He hasn't played a lot of rugby since the Heineken Cup Final.

He went to New Zealand (on Ireland's summer Tour) but only got a few minutes.

“It's a long season and the guys in their positions have been doing a good job so it's a balance of getting them back up to speed and rewarding the players who have been doing the job for us.”

The New Zealander again stressed that players showing good form will be picked, and used Brady's selection at hooker as an example.

“Rob Herring has done well, he's a young guy learning his trade at hooker and we're happy with the way he's progressing but Nigel came on last week and his experience came through,” explained Anscombe.

“His scrummaging was outstanding and he contributed around the park and that's what we want.

“It's a matter of keeping everyone accountable for their performance and Nigel took his chance last week and has been rewarded.”

Anscombe was full of praise for the travelling Munster side.

“It's our first derby of the season and there's a lot of history between the two teams so it should be a great occasion,” he said.

“They will be the best team we've played against so far this year and their history shows what they're capable of doing.

“There's no prouder union in the competition than Munster and there's never going to be an easy game against them so we need to perform to our capabilities to come away with a win.

“I'm really hoping that we get a big home crowd out to support us and I really want us to get a victory.”

Form: Ulster have made the perfect start to the RaboDirect PRO12 campaign with back to back wins over Glasgow Warriors and Ospreys. The Ulstermen's only reversal at Ravenhill since last September was 8-16 to Leinster on 20 April. Ulster have lost their last four encounters with fellow Irish provinces. Munster have, for the third season running, also started with successive RaboDirect PRO12 victories, against Edinburgh and Treviso. Ulster have won just one of their last four fixtures with the Munstermen in this tournament, but did knock their rivals out of the European Cup at the quarter-finals stage in April. Munster's solo victory at Ravenhill since 2007 was 16-6 on 29 October 2010.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Craig Gilroy.

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (capt), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Luke O'Dea, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Keith Earls.

Date: Friday, September 14
Venue: Ravenhill, Belfast
Kick-off: 19.05 BST (18.05 GMT)
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)