Preview: Ulster v Ospreys

Date published: February 24 2012

Paul Marshall, Pedrie Wannenburg and Andi Kyriacou return to Ulster's starting line-up for Friday's PRO12 clash with the Ospreys.

Paul Marshall, Andi Kyriacou and Pedrie Wannenburg all return to Ulster's starting XV for Friday's PRO12 clash with the Ospreys.

Marshall is included at scrum-half, with versatile South African Ruan Pienaar moving to fly-half and Ian Humphreys dropping down to the bench.

The backline remains otherwise unchanged from the one that faced Cardiff Blues last weekend.

Up front, Wannenburg has returned from a foot injury and will pack down at number eight in place of Robbie Diack. Chris Henry will again captain the side from the blindside, with Willie Faloon remaining on the other side of the scrum.

Dan Tuohy and Lewis Stevenson continue the partnership at lock. There are two changes in the front-row meanwhile with Paddy McAllister coming in at loosehead prop for Callum Black and Kyriacou replacing Nigel Brady at hooker.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys have been decimated by international call-ups and have subsequently named an inexperienced forward pack for the trip to Belfast.

With hooker Richard Hibbard joining Ryan Jones, Adam Jones, Paul James, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Evans and Justin Tipuric in the Welsh squad that will face England, the region have included Joe Rees and Scott Baldwin in the front-row, with Sam Lewis on the flank.

“It's good to go to Ulster off the back of two wins but we know that there's going to have be a real improvement from last week if we are going to make it three from three,” said a confident forwards coach, Jonathan Humphreys.

“Ravenhill is always a difficult place to go, even more so when they are in the kind of form they've shown during their European campaign this season. It's likely to be a full house, a passionate atmosphere, and a difficult evening for what is largely a young Ospreys team, with a sprinkling of experience. It's nights like these where you learn a lot about a team, about the character and spirit of young guys. It's going to be a great test.

“We've got ourselves in a good position in the PRO12, mainly down to these guys, who've been here during the World Cup and Six Nations. We need to maintain our focus now and make sure we finish the job in the coming weeks and secure that home semi-final.”

Form: Ulster's three game winning run in the RaboDirect PRO12 ended at the Arms Park against Cardiff Blues on Friday. The Ulstermen's only defeat at Ravenhill in their last 17 matches in all competitions was 12-23 to Treviso on 7 October. Ospreys have won three of their last four encounters in the RaboDirect PRO12. The Welshmen have won all six fixtures they have played against the Irish provinces so far this season. Ospreys have won their last two games against Ulster and have won at Ravenhill on four occasions in this tournament – only Leinster have done as well in Belfast.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Nevin Spence, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Chris Henry (capt), 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Tim Barker, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Ian Humphreys, 22 Simon Danielli, 23 Adam D'Arcy.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tom Smith (capt), 5 James King, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Joe Rees, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Mefin Davies, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Jonathan Thomas/Lloyd Peers, 20 George Stowers, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Ashley Beck.

Date: Friday, February 24
Kick-off: 19:05
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: tbc (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Assessor: Brian Stirling (Ireland)