PRO12 preview: Friday

Date published: April 6 2017

Connacht will be looking to bounce back in Edinburgh while Ulster take on Cardiff Blues in Belfast in the PRO12 on Friday.

Edinburgh v Connacht

Edinburgh's acting head coach Duncan Hodge has made six changes to his starting side for Friday's PRO12 clash against Connacht at Myreside.

Four of the amendments are made in the back division, with two changes named in the starting pack.

Glenn Bryce starts at full-back in place of Blair Kinghorn, who is currently on duty with Scotland 7s. Another change of personnel in the back-three sees Rory Scholes taking up a spot on the left wing.

It’s all change at half-back with Nathan Fowles and Duncan Weir replacing Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Jason Tovey respectively.

Ben Toolis has recovered from a back injury and is named in the second-row where he will be joined by fellow incomer Fraser McKenzie.

Stuart McInally will make his 100th appearance for the club if he is to be called upon from the bench.

Meanwhile, Connacht have made seven changes to the team beaten in Zebre last weekend with Ireland internationals Tiernan O'Halloran and Kieran Marmion among the players to be drafted into the starting XV.

Set to make his 100th PRO12 appearance, O'Halloran has been among the top full-backs in the competition again this season with the most metres gained and more carries than any other player.

With five personnel changes in the backline, Marmion starts at scrum-half and Niyi Adeolokun, having shaken off a niggle, also returns on the right ring. Danie Poolman switches to the left flank while Steve Crosbie makes his second start for the province at out-half. After making his return from injury off the bench last week, Eoin Griffin is handed a starting place and will partner Bundee Aki in the centres.

There is one change to the front-row as Dominic Robertson-McCoy replaces Finlay Bealham with Denis Buckley and Tom McCartney retaining their places.

Quinn Roux and Andrew Browne remain in situ in the second-row with Eoin McKeon moving to blindside flanker as Jake Heenan has recovered from a minor shin injury to start at openside flanker. Captain John Muldoon continues at number eight.

Form: Edinburgh have lost their last six PRO12 matches since losing to Zebre in Parma on December 31. Edinburgh's only victory since their return to Myreside was 49-3 over Timisoara in the Challenge Cup on January 20. Connacht have slipped to back-to-back away defeats in the PRO12 at Glasgow and at Zebre, but did win twice in Scotland last season, over Edinburgh at Murrayfield and against Leinster in the PRO12 final at the same venue. Connacht have won their last three matches against Edinburgh since the Scotsmen were victorious in Galway in January 2015. Connacht have never visited Myreside before. 

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Hoyland 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Murray McCallum
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Tom Brown, 23 Junior Rasolea

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Steve Crosbie, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Cannon, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Josh Rowland

Date: Friday, April 7
Venue: Myreside
Kick-off: 19:35 local (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)

Ulster v Cardiff Blues

Les Kiss has named a strong side for the visit of Cardiff Blues to Kingspan Stadium as Ulster aim for a seventh consecutive PRO12 win.

Rory Best returns to provincial action and he will lead the side from hooker as regular captains Rob Herring and Andrew Trimble are both named on the bench. The latter makes a welcome return having recovered from a hand injury sustained against Treviso last month.

Joining them on the bench is Academy back row Nick Timoney, who will make his senior debut if called upon by Kiss. The 21-year-old has produced notable displays for Queen's University RFC, Ulster A and Ireland 7s over the past couple of seasons.

There are two other personnel changes to the starting XV that defeated Dragons 17-27 a fortnight ago, with Roger Wilson and Paddy Jackson also called in by Kiss.

Best is the only new face in the front five, with Andy Warwick, Wiehahn Herbst, Kieran Treadwell and Al O'Connor all retained from the Dragons victory. Wilson's inclusion at number eight means that Sean Reidy will move to the openside flanker berth, while Iain Henderson will again start at six.

Jackson, who made an impressive appearance as a replacement two weeks ago, will renew his half-back partnership with Ruan Pienaar. Stuart Olding and Luke Marshall are selected in midfield and the back three of Craig Gilroy, Charles Piutau and Jared Payne is unchanged.

Callum Black, Rodney Ah You and Robbie Diack will join Herring and Timoney as forward replacements on the bench, while Trimble, Paul Marshall and Jacob Stockdale are the backline options.

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues have made four changes for their return to PRO12 action.

Following last weekend's Challenge Cup exit, the Blues are determined to secure a play-off position to qualify for the Champions Cup.

Rhun Williams returns to the starting line-up for the first time since February, replacing Matthew Morgan, while Willis Halaholo steps up from the bench to re-form a midfield partnership with Rey Lee-Lo.

Up front, Ellis Jenkins returns at blindside flanker with Josh Navidi switching to number eight and Nick Williams dropping to the bench. The only other change sees Matthew Rees starting at hooker in the place of Kristian Dacey, who is rested.

Form: Ulster have won their last six PRO12 matches and have not won seven in a row in the Championship since season 2012/13. Ulster's only home defeat in the PRO12 since February 2016 was by a single point to Munster on October 28. Cardiff Blues have lost their last two PRO12 matches, both to Irish provinces, at home to Munster and away to Leinster. The Blues only victory on a visit to an Irish province in their last eleven trips was 24-23 over Munster in Cork in September. Ulster's only defeat in their last five fixtures against Blues was 13-23 in Cardiff in February 2016, whilst the Blues have not been victorious in Belfast since April 2010. 

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Alan O'Connor, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Jacob Stockdale, 23 Andrew Trimble

Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 James Down, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan

Date: Friday, April 7
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 local (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Keith Allen (Scotland), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Italy)