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Preview: Connacht v Ulster

18th April 2013 12:11

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SKY_MOBILE Jared Payne - Ulster Heineken Cup

Full-back: Jared Payne

Ulster have made five personnel and two positional changes to the team that beat the Dragons at Ravenhill last week for Friday's clash with Connacht.

Jared Payne has recovered from the ankle knock that he suffered against Saracens and starts at full-back for the game at the Sports ground.

Chris Henry, Andrew Trimble and Paddy Jackson, who were rested against the Dragons also return.

In the only other personnel change, Lewis Stevenson starts in the second-row, with Iain Henderson named as a substitute.

The positional changes see Tommy Bowe switch from the right wing to the left, and Ruan Pienaar moving from fly-half to scrum-half.

Johann Muller and John Afoa are named on a strong bench, as is Paul Marshall who will make his 100th appearance for the province if he comes on.

Meanwhile, Connacht make no changes to the team that defeated Edinburgh 32-24 at Murrayfield last week.

Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin and Ronan Loughney make up the front-row trio with a total tally of 429 Connacht caps between them.

21-year-old Kieran Marmion, who has started every game this season, remains in the half-back pairing with Dan Parks.

March 'Player of the Month' Brian Murphy is named at first centre for his fifth Connacht start this year.

"We were obviously happy with last week's win. It was a very good victory for us but we're not getting carried as it means nothing if we can't back it up and have consistency now in this derby match against Ulster," said head coach Eric Elwood.

"We have a point to prove in that were nilled up in Belfast and that's a big incentive. We were disappointed with our away performances in the derby fixtures so we have another opportunity for four points here.

"We're looking forward to a physical contest. You can't shy away from the physicality. You have to be able to go toe-to-toe, up front with Ulster and you have to be able to control the break down area. And that's key this weekend. And we'll have the extra spice of the derby game at home. They're looking for top four and we still believe we have a lot to play for with three to go. So it should be ding dong."

Form: Connacht's solitary reversal in their last five RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures was 0-22 to Munster in Cork on 23rd March. Connacht have won all four matches played at the Sportsground in all competitions in 2013. Connacht's only win over a fellow Irish province this season came in round 5 when they beat Leinster 34-6 in Galway. Ulster returned to the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table with their 31-5 victory at home to Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday. The Ulstermen's only away victory in their last four trips in all competitions was 22-18 over Leinster at RDS on 30th March. Ulster have lost just once against a fellow Irish province this season: 10-24 in Munster on 29th December. Connacht's only win in their last 13 PRO12 contests with Ulster was 26-21 in this equivalent fixture at the Sportsground last season.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Brian Murphy, 11 Gavin Duffy (capt), 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 John Muldoon, 6 Mick Kearney, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Andrew Browne, 20 Mata Fifita, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 John Afoa, 19 Johann Muller, 20 Iain Henderson, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Peter Nelson.

Date: Friday, April 19
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Barrie O'Connell (Ireland)
Television match official: Sean Flannery (Ireland)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (Ireland)

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Pool 5
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PosTeamPPts
1Ulster626
2Leicester Tigers621
3Montpellier611
4Treviso60