Brian McLaughlin has been forced into making some changes to his starting XV for the visit of Edinburgh to Ravenhill on Friday night (kick off 7.05pm).
Centre Nevin Spence has been ruled out of the RaboDirect PRO12 clash with a hand injury, so McLaughlin has been forced to re-shuffle his backline. Ian Whitten is moved from the wing to midfield, where he will partner captain Paddy Wallace. Stefan Terblanche moves to fill the wing berth vacated by Whitten, meaning Adam D’Arcy earns a recall at fullback. Paul Marshall and Ruan Pienaar will form the half back partnership for the second consecutive week, while Craig Gilroy remains on the right wing.
There are fewer changes up front; Chris Henry will travel to Paris with the Ireland squad so Pedrie Wannenburg moves to the side of the scrum and Robbie Diack gets a run out at No8. The front five is unchanged from the side that started in the 15-14 win over Ospreys last weekend.
With Simon Danielli also ruled out after picking up a hamstring injury against Ospreys, young backs Luke Marshall and Chris Cochrane are also named among the replacements. Neil McComb and Mike McComish have been called up to the bench to provide cover in the forwards.
McLaughlin believes a win would be a massive boost to his side’s hopes of reaching the play offs in May: “We were in the top four briefly last week and that’s where we want to be. We need to be at our best but if we get the win it will give us something more to build on as were target the PRO12 semis. But Edinburgh are a very good team and they are ranked above us in Europe.”
He continued: “They’ve proved how good they are by qualifying for the quarter finals if the Heineken Cup and they like to play a good style of rugby under Michael Bradley. We played very well against them at the turn of the year and we will have to produce something similar at Ravenhill. For us, the 20 minute period after half time will be crucial. That’s when we have to step it up and keep improving through to the end of the match.”
McLaughlin is disappointed that the names of Spence and Danielli have been added to a growing injury list but insists it will provide opportunities for others to stake a claim. “We have a bit of a break after this game so we are hoping to have quite a few of the injured players back for the match against Treviso later this month.”
The Ulster coach is delighted to be playing at Ravenhill on consecutive weekends, where his side have lost only once in their last 18 matches. “The players get a huge lift from playing in front of their home crowd and there is no doubt it has a positive effect on results. As always, we are determined to produce a performance for the fans and hopefully get the result,” concluded McLaughlin.
There are still tickets available for Friday’s game. They can be bought online at www.ulsterrugby.com or by calling the ticket office on 02890493222 (ticketing option). Alternatively, you can pay at the gate on match night.
Ulster Rugby is appealing to supporters to be mindful of local residents and to avoid parking in the immediate vicinity of the Ravenhill Grounds on match nights.
From 2nd March 2012 there will be parking, by permit, for residents only along the following roads: Onslow Parade, Onslow Park, Ravenhill Park, Ravenhill Park Gardens, Ravensdene Park, Ravensdene Crescent and Ravensdene Park Gardens. Any cars parked along these roads and not displaying a valid resident parking permit will be ticketed. There will also be restrictions in the Castlereagh area (Mount Merrion Avenue).
Supporters are encouraged to make use of the complimentary Park’n’Ride facilities on Ulster Rugby match days located at Pirrie Park on the Ravenhill side of the ground, and along Montgomery Road, on the Mount Merrion side of the ground. There is ample parking at both locations and they are just a short distance from the ground. Supporters can either walk or take advantage of the free buses that run to and from the parking areas and the ground from 90 minutes prior to kick off until 90 minutes after the final whistle.
If required, the PSNI will also close the two main approaches to the ground, Onslow Parade and Mount Merrion Avenue at peak times of entrance and egress to and from the ground. For more information please contact our ticket office on 02890493222.
Ulster Match Day Squad to face Edinburgh, Friday 2nd March 2012, Ravenhill (kick-off 7.05pm)
(15-9): A D’Arcy; C Gilroy, I Whitten, P Wallace (capt), S Terblanche; R Pienaar, P Marshall;
(1-8): P McAllister, A Kyriacou, J Afoa, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, W Faloon, R Diack;
Replacements (16-23): N Brady, C Black, A Macklin, N McComb, M McComish, I Humphreys, L Marshall, C Cochrane
Unavailable due to injury: J Payne (achilles), D Fitzpatrick (neck), D Cave (foot), J Muller (calf), A Birch (knee), N Spence (hand), S Danielli (hamstring)