Preview: Ulster v Toulon

Date published: October 24 2014

Despite an opening defeat to Leicester, Ulster can enter this fixture with Toulon confident after the champions failed to impress in Round One.

Despite an opening loss to Leicester, Ulster can enter this European fixture with Toulon confident after the French side failed to impress in Round One.

Falling to the Tigers at Welford Road is nothing to be ashamed of as Leicester followed up an Aviva Premiership win over Quins with Ulster’s scalp.

So now back on home soil at Ravenhill in front of their vocal fans, it’s possible the former finalists can get one over the current European holders.

Toulon did not set the world alight in their 28-18 win over the Scarlets and one wonders how they will fare in a difficult first trip on the road.

A repeat performance of last week would surely end in a loss for the holders as they seemed a touch overconfident against the Welsh region, who gave them a tough afternoon’s work.

Toulon have made a handful of change this week as Delon Armitage comes in for David Smith on the right wing while Michael Claassens is named at scrum-half ahead of Sebastien Tillous-Borde.

Juan Smith moves to the replacements bench as Chris Masoe wears the number eight jersey, with Steffon Armitage switching to the flank alongside Juan Fernandez Lobbe while in the second-row Romain Taofifenua and Jocelino Suta are paired together.

Meanwhile, Ulster hooker Rory Best, who is 32, will make his 50th European appearance after making his debut against Gloucester in January 2005 in a 14-12 home win.

Ulster head coach Neil Doak has made two changes to the starting team that lost to Tigers.

Stuart Olding starts at inside centre, with Stuart McCloskey dropping out of the squad.

In the pack, Nick Williams moves to the bench, with Roger Wilson picked at number eight.

The rest of the team is unchanged with Louis Ludik at full-back, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy on the wings, Jared Payne at outside centre, Paddy Jackson at fly-half and Paul Marshall at scrum-half.

Andrew Warwick is selected at loosehead beside Best with Wiehahn Herbst continuing at tighthead. Franco van der Merwe and Lewis Stevenson continue their partnership in the second-row, while Chris Henry and Robbie Diack start either side of Wilson in the back-row.

There is one other change on the bench with Ian Humphreys included in the matchday 23.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco Van Der Merwe, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Andy Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Clive Ross, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Darren Cave.

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Delon Armitage, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Carl Hayman (c), 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 James O’Connor, 21 Ali Williams, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Juan Smith.

Date: Saturday, October 25
Kick-off: 13:00 BST
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Nigel Carrick (England)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)
Timekeeper: Scottie Rankin (Ireland)
Assessor: John Coyle (Ireland)