Ahead of tomorrow’s sold out clash against Munster at Ravenhill, Ulster Coach Brian McLaughlin, as expected, has named an entirely changed starting XV from that which was defeated by Leinster at the RDS on Boxing Day.
With two PRO12 derbies within the space of four days, McLaughlin has coached two separate teams for the games and the line-up for this Friday's match has a much more familiar look to it although Ulster are without a number of players due to injury and a bout of tummy bug in the squad, while the Ireland internationals are also unavailable due to a training camp.
"It's a huge game for it, it's at Ravenhill and it's against Munster. When the fixture list came out we were not very happy with the fact that we had a four day turnaround but we just have to manage the scheduling as best we can." said McLaughlin.
We want to put our best team out on the pitch as often as we possibly can, but Irish Management Programme looks after the Internationals and we have to look after the rest of the players as well so we took the decision, and it was not taken lightly, to run two separate squads for two games."
Injury to Nevin Spence (ankle), sustained during Ulster's trip to Aironi sees Ian Whitten recalled to the starting XV for the first time since Ulster faced Treviso at Ravenhill on 7th October, and he will partner Darren Cave in the centre while Stefan Terblanche will make his first starting appearance for Ulster since arriving at the beginning of December. The South African, brought in as cover for the injured Jared Payne on a short-term contract has come off the bench twice for Ulster so far, against Aironi in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Heineken Cup. Elsewhere Willie Faloon makes a return to the back row alongside Pedrie Wannenburg and Chris Henry while Callum Black, Ali Birch, Chris Farrell and Peter Nelson, who all made their Ulster debuts against Leinster, are named amongst the replacements.
Ulster Captain Johann Muller is looking forward to the match
"It's a big game and I don't have to say a lot to lift the guys for it, we all know that the games between Irish provinces are the big games for the team . This week training has been outstanding, a lot of energy, there's nothing like a week off to refresh the body and mind and get everyone really keen to play rugby again.
We know what's coming, we know Munster are an outstanding team but we're at Ravenhill, we have a great record there and we want to keep it that way.
Munster's strength is their consistency – it doesn't matter what tournament they play in, they're always there or thereabouts. They are a team that never says die, that's the Munster that I've got to know over the last 18 months or so, they are always there and if they don't win they'll always get a losing bonus point. Consistency is a key for them, and as a squad it's something we can learn from."
Ulster: (15-9) A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, I Whitten, S Terblanche; I Humphreys, R Pienaar (1-8) P McAllister, A Kyriacou, J Afoa, J Muller (Captain), D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, W Faloon, C Henry
Replacements: (16-23) N Brady, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, A Birch, P Marshall, C Farrell, P Nelson
Not available due to injury/sickness: Jared Payne (achilles), Paddy Wallace (hand), Declan Fitzpatrick (neck), Luke Marshall (ankle), Paddy Jackson (ankle), Nevin Spence (ankle), Tim Barker (sickness), Simon Danielli (sickness)
Not available due to IRFU Player Management Programme: Tom Court, Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, Andrew Trimble