Preview: Ulster v Ospreys

Date published: November 20 2014

Andrew Trimble will win his 189th cap for Ulster when he lines up on the right wing against the Ospreys at Ravenhill on Friday.

Ulster’s all-time record try-scorer is joined in the back-three by Craig Gilroy, who scored 11 tries in the competition last season, and Louis Ludik who is winning his 26th cap.

The game will also see Peter Nelson start his first game for Ulster at fly-half. The versatile 22-year-old, who has played 10 for Dungannon RFC and Ulster A, returns to the position following injuries to Ian Humphreys (hamstring strain) and Sam Windsor (Achilles).

Paul Marshall is selected at scrum-half, with centres Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall completing the backline.

Rob Herring captains the side and starts at hooker. He is joined in the front-row by Andrew Warwick who is picked at loosehead and tighthead Wiehahn Herbst.

Dan Tuohy and Franco van der Merwe are paired in the second-row, with Roger Wilson named at blindside, Willie Faloon returning to competitive action with Ulster at openside and Nick Williams back from suspension to take up his position at number eight.

Head coach Neil Doak has selected six forwards and two backs on the replacements bench with John Andrew, Ricky Lutton, Bronson Ross, Peter Browne, Clive Ross and Sean Reidy named alongside David Shanahan and Sam Arnold.

Meanwhile, scrum-half Tom Habberfield makes his 50th Ospreys appearance while lock De Kock Steenkamp and number eight Gareth Delve are set to make their Ospreys debuts.

Delve's back-row partner Lloyd Evans (flanker) will make his PRO12 debut while right wing Kristian Phillips makes his first Ospreys appearance since October 2011 after re-signing for the region this year. 

Sam Underhill and Brendon Leonard will make their Ospreys debuts if they come off the bench.

"We've had a pretty good pre-season, there's been a good mood in the camp and everyone has worked very hard ahead of this weekend's game," said Ospreys boss Steve Tandy.

"Everything we've done since the end of June has been geared up towards building the foundations for the new campaign, part of a bigger picture to be ready for Ulster on Friday night.

"It's no secret that we've got a young group, but we've been able to add some experience over the summer, and we want to keep growing as a team, building on the promise we showed at times last season.

"There's a real sense of excitement around the environment and we're all looking forward to getting the season underway.

"As a coaching group, we have had some difficult decisions to make this week, and that is exactly how it should be.

"There are individuals who have really put their hands up in pre-season and are disappointed to miss out for the opening weekend but, without exception, they have shown real Ospreys spirit this week, recognising that it's about the wider group and have worked hard to help the team prepare. It's been good to see.

"Ulster is always a tough place to go. They have a strong squad and a big, passionate and loud crowd who get behind whoever is wearing the Ulster shirt, whatever the circumstances.

"It can be a real test of character out there so we need to be sure that we are 100 per cent switched on and everybody is completely focused on the job in hand. It's about the small things, attention to detail, that can make a big difference on the night.

"We've spoken in training about controlling the things that we can control, focusing on performance and getting that right. If we look after that then, hopefully, we'll get the desired outcome.

"We want to put on a positive performance so that we can come back to the Liberty next weekend for the Round 2 game against Munster, in front of a big Ospreys crowd buying into what we are working to achieve at this region."

Form: Ulster's three most recent encounters in the Guinness PRO12 ended in a draw with Munster and a pair of defeats to Glasgow, in Round 22 and in the Play-Offs. The Ulstermen have not been defeated at Kingspan Stadium in the Guinness PRO12 since Leinster were the visitors in May 2014. Ospreys have go off to a winning start in the Guinness PRO12 in five of the last seven seasons and finished off their regular season campaign in 2014/15 with six straight wins before going down to Munster in the Play-Offs. Ospreys are the only Welsh side to have triumphed in Belfast since April 2010, having done so on two occasions, in April 2010 and again in February 2013. Ospreys only win in their last four encounters with Ulster was 31-20 at Liberty Stadium on 20th December 2014.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Franco Van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Ricky Lutton, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Peter Browne, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Sean Reidy, 22 David Shanahan, 23 Sam Arnold.

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ben John, 11 Tom Grabham, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Lloyd Evans, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Lloyd Ashley (c), 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Sam Underhill, 22 Brendon Leonard, 23 Ashley Beck.

Date: Friday, September 4
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Television match official: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Assessor: Andy Clift (Scotland)