Preview: Ulster v Munster

Date published: October 27 2016

Les Kiss has made eight changes to the Ulster team that will face Munster at Kingspan Stadium on Friday.

Dan Tuohy and Wiehahn Herbst have returned from long-term injuries and will make their first senior appearances of the season, having not featured since December 2015 and January 2016 respectively. The duo are two of five new faces to the forward pack, with a further three personnel changes made to the backline for the crucial PRO12 encounter.

Herbst is part of a front-row that also includes captain Rob Herring and loosehead prop Callum Black.

Tuohy will join Franco van der Merwe in the second-row, while Robbie Diack also returns to the starting team; he is picked alongside Sean Reidy and Roger Wilson in the back-row.

Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson are retained in the half-back positions, with Darren Cave joining Luke Marshall in midfield. Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy have been elevated from the bench to starting berths on the wing, so last week's Man of the Match Charles Piutau switches to full-back.

Conor Joyce could make his first appearance for the Province in over two years after being named among the replacements. The 23-year-old back row's last outing was the memorable 17-19 win over Munster at Thomond Park in May 2014.

John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Andy Warwick and Clive Ross will provide additional cover for the forwards, with Paul Marshall, Brett Herron and Jacob Stockdale included in the match day squad as backline options.

After sustaining a hip flexor injury, Stuart Olding is likely to be out of action for at least two matches. As expected, Iain Henderson will also miss this weekend's action. Iain has shown improvement this week following a shoulder injury picked up against Exeter and he will be continue to be assessed on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has made five changes to his team. One change is made to the pack with Jack O'Donoghue starting at number eight while across the backline Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley form the half-back partnership with Ronan O'Mahony and Andrew Conway both returning to the back-three. 

Duncan Williams will make his 100th PRO12 appearance.

Should they feature from the bench, academy hooker Vincent O'Brien and Young Munster scrum-half Abrie Griesel will make their senior debuts for the province. 

Achieving interprovincial success with Munster U20 last season, O'Brien represented Ireland at this year's World Rugby U20 Championship while Griesel, a former South Africa U20 representative, has trained with the squad in recent months.

A number of internationals are unavailable for selection and, in managing player load, Tyler Bleyendaal will also miss the round 7 encounter.

Form: Ulster were defeated by Connacht in Galway in round 6, their first loss of this campaign, and have not lost successive PRO12 encounters since February. Ulster have won their last seven matches in Belfast in all tournaments since Scarlets were successful there by a single point in the PRO12 on 21 February. Munster tripped up at Leinster in round 6 of the PRO12 but have not lost back-to-back fixtures in the Championship since April. Munster’s only success against a fellow Irish province in their last six such encounters was 9-7 in this equivalent fixture in Ulster last season. Munster are unbeaten in their last four meetings with Ulster since the Ulstermen triumphed 19-17 at Thomond Park in the PRO12 in May 2014. Munster are unbeaten on their last two visits to Kingspan Stadium and have not gone three matches without defeat in Belfast since the Second World War.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Andy Warwick, 19 Clive Ross, 20 Conor Joyce, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Jacob Stockdale

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O'Donoghue, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Vincent O'Brien, 17 Brian Scott, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Darren O'Shea, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Abriel Griesel, 22 Alex Wootton, 23 Dan Goggin

Date: Friday, October 28
Venue: Kingspan Stadium 
Time: 19:05 local (18:05 GMT) 
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales) 
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), John Carvill (Ireland) 
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)