Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has once again made several changes to his starting XV for their RaboDirect PRO12 fixture against Aironi at Rravenhill (kick off 7.05pm).
Ulster welcome back Ireland trio Rory Best, Andrew Trimble and Stephen Ferris following their exploits with Ireland. Lewis Stevenson’s fine form in recent weeks has been rewarded with a starting place in the second row alongside captain Johann Muller. Dan Tuohy is named on the bench as a result.
Pedrie Wannenburg has recovered from the illness which ruled him out of last week’s trip to Treviso so he will earn his 50th Ulster cap in front of the Ravenhill faithful. The South African number 8 is joined in the back row by Ferris and Chris Henry, who moves from the blindside flank to openside.
The half back and centre partnerships remain unchanged as McLaughlin looks for a settled team ahead of the Heineken Cup quarter final against Munster on Easter Sunday. The return of Trimble means Craig Gilroy switches to the left wing and Stefan Terblanche moves to fullback at the expense of Adam D’Arcy.
McLaughlin is delighted to have his Ireland starters back and available for Ulster’s run in: “Whenever Rory, Andrew and Stevie come back into the squad in gives everyone a great fillip. They have such high standards and demand the same from the other players.”
Commenting on his decision to promote Lewis Stevenson to the starting XV in place of Dan Tuohy, he said: “Lewis has been in very good form over the past couple of months. He was very good for us when he came off the bench in Treviso for the final 15 or 20 minutes so he deserves his chance. Everyone knows there are places up for grabs in every position and we have great competition throughout the squad. If players get chances they have to take them.”
Further emphasising his point, he continued: “With Stephen back in and Pedrie fit again, the back row is another area where we are particularly strong. It is harsh on Robbie Diack and Willie Faloon and other players who have been left out.”
Pedrie Wannenburg will make his 50th appearance for the Province when he runs out against Aironi on Friday night and McLaughlin was full of praise for the departing back row player. “It is fantastic for Pedrie to earn his 50th cap. He has been a tremendous servant to the club in the two seasons he has been with us. He has shown remarkable consistency last season and this season, despite being unfortunate with injuries in recent times,” said the Ulster coach.
Ticket sales for Friday’s game have already passed the 8,500 mark but tickets are still available. 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 Match Day Squad to face Aironi, Friday 30th March 2012, Ravenhill (kick-off 7.05pm)
(15-9): S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar;
(1-8): T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (capt), L Stevenson, S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg;
Replacements (16-23): N Brady, P McAllister, A Macklin, D Tuohy, W Faloon, P Marshall, I Whitten, A D’Arcy
Unavailable due to injury: J Payne (achilles), S Danielli (hamstring), Mike McComish (concussion), Tim Barker (back)