Planet Rugby

Preview: Ulster v Dragons

27th February 2014 10:27

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SKY_MOBILE Tommy Bowe Ulster

On the wing: Tommy Bowe

Tommy Bowe starts for Ulster against the Dragons at Ravenhill on Friday having recovered from the leg injury that has kept him out since November.

The British and Irish Lions winger starts on the right wing and is joined in the back three by Jared Payne, who is selected at full-back and by Ireland Under 20's winger Rory Scholes, who makes his first senior start for the Province.

Luke Marshall and Darren Cave maintain their partnership in midfield. Paddy Jackson has been released by Ireland and starts at fly-half, with Ruan Pienaar moving back to his more familiar position at scrum-half.

Up front Callum Black starts at loosehead, with Tom Court named on the bench. Rob Herring continues at hooker with Ricky Lutton keeping his place at tighthead.

Johann Muller captains Ulster from the second row where he is joined by Iain Henderson, who has also been released from international duty.

Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle and Roger Wilson all start in an unchanged back row.

21-year-old centre, Stuart McCloskey, who is a member of the Ulster Academy, is named as a replacement and will make his first senior appearance if called upon.

Meanwhile, Bruce Douglas will make his first start for the Dragons this weekend.

The 34-year-old is on loan from Bristol RFC and will make his first start of the season since joining the squad at the beginning of the month.

There have been a total of four changes to the winning team that took on Glasgow Warriors as Welsh Sevens star Rhys Jones gets his third start of the season for the men of Gwent at full-back. He is joined in the back three by wingers Matthew Pewtner and Ross Wardle.

The centre pairing of Pat Leach and Ashley Smith makes another appearance with Smith also taking on the role of captain, in Andrew Coombs' absence. At number 10 Steffan Jones takes on kicking duties as fly-half Jason Tovey is moved to the bench and scrum-half Richie Rees retains his place from last weekend.

The front-row has one change to it as Douglas comes into the starting XV alongside Owen Evans and T. Rhys Thomas. The second-row has taken on a younger form as Matthew Screech steps up in Coombs; absence and Cory Hill retains his shirt. The back-row then remains unchanged with Jevon Groves, Nic Cudd and Lewis Evans all retaining their places.

There have been six changes made to the bench as Ieuan Jones and Wayne Evans are joined on the bench by Nathan Williams, Hugh Gustafson, Duncan Bell, Rob Sidoli, Tovey and Jack Dixon who has returned from injury.

Form: Ulster's only defeat in any competition since early November was 6-19 to Leinster at the RDS in the PRO12 on 28th December. The Ulstermen have not managed to tally a try bonus point in the competition since round 8, whilst their only defeat at Ravenhill in the last twelve months was to Glasgow on 13th September. Newport Gwent Dragons last five fixtures in the PRO12 have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Welshmen's solo victory on the road in the competition since round 16 last season came at Glasgow in November. The Men of Gwent have lost their last five contests with Irish provinces and have won just once away from home against an Irish team since October 2004: 16-14 against Ulster at Ravenhill in September 2008. The Dragons were victorious 15-8 at Rodney Parade when the two teams met in round 1 but have not achieved a season's double over the Ulstermen since 2008/09.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Stuart McCloskey, 23 David McIlwaine.

Dragons: 15 Rhys Jones, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith (c), 11 Ross Wardle, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Williams, 17 Hugh Gustafson, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Jack Dixon.

Date: Friday, February 28
Kick-off: 19:05 GMT
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Johan Carvill (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Assessor: Jack Young (Ireland)

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