Preview: Ulster v Leinster

Date published: May 1 2014

Ulster back Jared Payne is set to return from suspension as one of three changes to their starting XV for the visit of Leinster to Ravenhill.

Ulster back Jared Payne will return from suspension as one of three changes to their starting line-up for Friday's visit of Leinster to Ravenhill.

Mark Anscombe has named the 28-year-old at outside centre for the sold-out clash against the league leaders, which will also act as the official opening of the newly redeveloped Ravenhill.

Other changes to the line-up from the defeat to Glasgow Warriors two weeks ago include Andrew Warwick at tighthead and Roger Wilson, returning from injury, in the back-row on the blindside.

Ireland caps Paul Marshall, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall will play inside Payne, with Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Ricky Andrew continuing in the back three for this week's game.

Warwick will be joined in the front-row by hooker Rob Herring and Tom Court, who will play possibly his last match for Ulster at Ravenhill. Retiring captain Johann Muller, who will find himself in a similar situation to Court, is again joined in the engine room by Iain Henderson.

Wilson's inclusion at blindside flanker means Chris Henry will switch to the other side of the scrum, while Nick Williams will remain at the base.

International second-row Dan Tuohy has returned from injury and is named among the replacements. Niall Annett, Callum Black and Adam Macklin provide front-row support on the bench, with Sean Doyle covering the back-row. Michael Heaney, James McKinney and Darren Cave are selected as backline substitutes.

Muller, who is likely to make his final Ravenhill appearance on Friday after announcing his intentions to retire at the end of the season, was keen to thank the people of Ulster for helping to make his time in the Province so memorable.

“It is no secret that the last four years are possibly the best of my rugby career. I have just enjoyed it so much. My family has been so happy in Belfast and the people of Northern Ireland have been absolutely outstanding to my family and I. We have loved it here,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are four changes in total to the Leinster team that accounted for Treviso last time out in a bonus-point nine-try win at the RDS and there is also a welcome return to the bench for Luke Fitzgerald.

The front and second-rows are unchanged with Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Martin Moore lining up with Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy locking down behind. Cronin and Moore will win their 70th and 30th caps respectively.

In the back-row there is one change with Shane Jennings coming in for Jordi Murphy. Elsewhere it is as you were, with Rhys Ruddock and Jamie Heaslip captaining the side from the base of the scrum.

Rob Kearney continues at full-back with Zane Kirchner on the right wing but there is a change on the left with Dave Kearney replacing Man of the Match from the Treviso game, Darragh Fanning.

Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll are together once again with Noel Reid the one to make way for D'Arcy following his two try performance last time out.

Finally in the half-backs, Ian Madigan starts in place of Jimmy Gopperth with Isaac Boss beside him at nine.

Form: A maximum point victory would ensure Ulster a place in the Play-Offs for a second successive year. The Ulstermen's only defeat at Ravenhill in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season came in their opening home game to Glasgow, 12-13. Leinster require a bonus point victory to guarantee a home Play-Off spot for a fifth successive year since the top four Play-Offs were introduced. The Leinstermen's only defeat in their last ten PRO12 fixtures was at Ospreys in round 19. Ulster's only two victories over Leinster in their last 11 encounters in all tournaments came in both regular season PRO12 fixtures in 2012/13. The Leinstermen have lost only two of their nine most recent visits to Ravenhill, and have not lost back to back matches at Ulster's citadel since 1992.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Andrew Warwick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Darren Cave.

Leinster 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Luke Fitzgerald.

Date: Friday, May 2
Kick-off:19:30 BST
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), David Connolly (Ireland)
Television match official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)