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Preview: Ulster v Castres

11th October 2012 12:57

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SKY_MOBILE Stephen Ferris Ulster

Switching to eight: Stephen Ferris

Last season's beaten finalists Ulster start their Heineken Cup campaign against Castres at Ravenhill on Friday.

Ulster are top of the Pro12 standings and unbeaten in their opening five games of the season. The Ulstermen have won their last 11 games at home in the Heineken Cup.

In stark contrast, Castres, consistent performers in the Top 14, have one of the worst away records in the tournament having won just won of their last 17 games on the road.

In team news, loose forward Iain Henderson will make his home debut for Ulster in the Pool 4 opener. Henderson replaces the injured Nick Williams, who has failed to recover from a rib injury picked up in the 25-0 win over Connacht on Friday.

Henderson will make his fourth appearance for the province, his first in the Heineken Cup. It follows Wednesday's news that the 20-year-old has signed his first full contract, keeping him at the club until June 2015.

Henderson's inclusion at blindside flanker will mean Stephen Ferris switches to the back of the scrum. The rest of the team is unchanged from the clinical victory over Connacht.

The only change on the bench will see Ruan Pienaar, who returned from Rugby Championship duty with South Africa earlier in the week, named in place of Michael Heaney.

After missing most of last season with an Achilles tendon injury, full-back Jared Payne will also make his European bow.

"I can't wait. I've been watching games at Ravenhill since I was a kid and I'm really looking forward to pulling on the white jersey and experiencing the atmosphere as a player," said Henderson.

"My first aim for the season was to be involved in a few PRO12 games but with the few injuries that we have in the back row, I've been given an opportunity and I have to try and grab it with both hands.

"Castres are a very physical team but they also throw the ball wide and have an expansive kicking game. That should make for a tough, but entertaining game. We'll have to work really hard to nullify their threats."

Castres currently occupy sixth position in the Top 14 having beaten Clermont Auvergne at the weekend, and with Ulster undefeated in the PRO12, it promises to be a tantalising clash.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Stephen Ferris, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johan Muller (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Craig Gilroy.

Castres: 15 Romain Teulet, 14 Marcel Garvey, 13 Seremaia Bai, 12 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Thierry Lacrampe, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Matthias Rolland, 3 Michaël Coetzee, 2 Mathieu Bonello, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Grégory Marmoiton, 18 Mihaïta Lazar, 19 Iosefa Tekori, 20 Antonie Claassen, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Paul Bonnefond, 23 Thomas Sanchou.

Date: Friday, October 12
Venue: Ravenhill
Kick-off: 20:00 (19:00 BST)
Referee: Andrew Small

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