Preview: Ulster v Scarlets

Date published: February 19 2016

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Roger Wilson will run out for Ulster for the 200th time after being named in Les Kiss' starting team for the PRO12 game against Scarlets on Sunday.

Wilson, who made his Ulster debut in September 2003, against Neath-Swansea Ospreys, has played well over 300 professional club games after also enjoying a four-year stint with Northampton Saints, with whom he won the European Challenge Cup in 2009.

Rob Herring has a slight hamstring injury so John Andrew will make his first senior start, at hooker. Herring's absence also means that fly-half Paddy Jackson will skipper the side for the first time.

Andrew is joined in the front-row by props Andy Warwick and Ricky Lutton, while Alan O'Connor and Franco van der Merwe will continue in the second-row.

Wilson will be joined in the back-row by Robbie Diack and Chris Henry, who will start for the first time since December after fully recovering from injury. Nick Williams is unavailable for selection due to a shoulder injury.

Paul Marshall will partner Jackson at half-back, with Luke Marshall returning from international duty to take a place at inside centre alongside Darren Cave, as Kiss continues to manage his midfield playing resources.

The back three of Craig Gilroy, Jacob Stockdale and Stuart Olding, who signed a contract extension earlier this week, remains unchanged from the win over Glasgow last week.

Hooker, Johnny Murphy, could make his competitive debut for the province after being named on the bench. Kyle McCall, Bronson Ross, Pete Browne and Clive Ross are the other forward replacements in Kiss' squad.

Ruan Pienaar, Ian Humphreys and Sammy Arnold are also included in the matchday 23.

Meanwhile, Scarlets have made two changes to the side that secured victory over Edinburgh last Friday as the region prepare to take on the table-toppers.

Head coach Wayne Pivac has named a new half-back pairing in Aled Thomas and Aled Davies, who has been released from Wales camp for the all-important PRO12 clash.

Thomas returns to the starting line-up after making an appearance from the replacements bench last week kicking the winning penalty in the final moments of the game. Fellow fly-half Steve Shingler suffered a medial ligament knee injury in the victory over the Scots and is expected to be out of action for up to ten weeks.

Maselino Paulino is named on the replacements bench as he makes a return from his suspension with young fly-half Dan Jones released from Wales U20s for the weekend's action.

The victory over Edinburgh kept Scarlets in the top four and only a point off leaders Ulster, reflecting on the win Pivac said: "It was a critical game for us. We have to make sure we do well in home games. It was a very, very important game for us.

"The boys have shown all year long that they're fighting for every point and every win. It's one of those seasons where we've had a few tight ones. It's nice to come out on the right side of a few of them. It's an improvement on last season but we still have a long way to go."

Looking ahead to Sunday's game he said: "At the moment they're sitting at the top. We'll take some confidence from Dragons' performance out there and the fact that they were very unlucky to get the result. On the day, if you can string a good performance together you're in with a good shout. Hopefully we'll do that on Sunday afternoon.

"It's important to get a good start; we don't want to be chasing the game, they're a really good crowd and get behind the side. We will be looking to chip away at the scoreboard and stay in the game. Hopefully we'll get some reasonable weather and try to score some tries."

Form: Ulster head the Guinness PRO12 table on points difference from Connacht and are also the best team in the tournament on current form having gained 22 league points from their last six matches. The Ulstermen have not lost at home to a team from outside the island since Glasgow visited the Kingspan Stadium in September 2013. Scarlets last four Guinness PRO12 fixtures have all gone with home field advantage whilst the Welshmen have not won on the road in the PRO12 since they visited Treviso in early December. Scarlets won 22-12 when the two sides met in Llanelli in September and have not achieved a seasons' double over the Ulstermen since 2008/09.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Stuart Olding, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Paddy Jackson (c), 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 Johnny Murphy, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Pete Browne, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Sammy Arnold.

Scarlets: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Gareth Owen, 13 Regan King, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 David Bulbring, 4 George Earle, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Maselino Paulino, 20 Rory Pitman, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Steffan Evans

Date: Sunday, February 21
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Alan Rogan (Ireland)

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