Ulster have been boosted by the return of a number of key players to the match day 23 for Friday’s trip to play Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the RaboDirect PRO12 (kick off 7.30pm).
Brian McLaughlin welcomes back his international contingent, with Andrew Trimble, Stephen Ferris, Tom Court and Rory Best all returning to the starting XV having missed the Inter-provincial games over the festive period.
Trimble’s return sees Craig Gilroy shift to the left wing and Stefan Terblanche move back to fullback, with Adam D’Arcy the player making way. Ian Whitten and Darren Cave again form the centre partnership, while Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys continue as half backs.
Best and Court are included in the front row in place of Andi Kyriacou and the injured Paddy McAllister. They are joined by All Black prop John Afoa, who picked up the man of the match award in the 33-17 win over Munster last weekend. Captain Johann Muller and Dan Tuohy once again combine in the second row. Stephen Ferris’ inclusion on the blindside flank results in Chris Henry moving to the openside berth, while Pedrie Wannenburg remains at number 8, meaning Willie Faloon has to settle for a place on the bench.
Paddy Wallace has returned to the squad after 7 weeks on the sidelines with tendon damage in his thumb. He is joined on the bench by D’Arcy and Faloon, as well as front row cover Andi Kyriacou, Callum Black and Adam Macklin, and scrumhalf Paul Marshall.
Edinburgh have lost only one of their last seven encounters at Murrayfield, while Ulster have lost only one of their last five matches in all competitions. Both teams are playing attractive rugby and if the past few weeks are anything to go by, it should be a very entertaining game. With Ulster just 7 points adrift of fourth spot, a win would be a huge boost to their hopes of progressing to the play offs, but defeat would be damaging. This is a point not lost on McLaughlin:
“It’s a crucial game for us, not only in terms of the PRO12, but also with Europe in mind next week. We must keep winning games in the PRO12 to put ourselves back in contention. Edinburgh have been playing well this season and like to play a good brand of rugby, but we will be looking to put in a quality performance and getting the result.”
The Ulster coach is pleased to welcome back some senior players:
“Training has been excellent all week. It’s been great having the internationals back, including Paddy (Wallace). It really gives us a boost coming into such important games and they will bring a bit extra to the team tomorrow night. They’re itching to get involved again and we are looking forward to having them back in.”
McLaughlin admits that he was faced with some tough decisions in terms of selection this week:
“Adam D’Arcy has been playing very well over the past few matches but Stefan has a bit more experience and we wanted to give him an opportunity to impress at fullback. With Andrew coming back in it gave us an opportunity to rotate a bit and make use of the strong squad we’ve assembled.”
(15-9): S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave, I Whitten, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar;
(1-8): T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (capt), D Tuohy, S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg;
Replacements (16-23): A Kyriacou, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, W Faloon, P Marshall, P Wallace, A D’Arcy
Unavailable due to injury: Jared Payne (achilles), Declan Fitzpatrick (neck), Nevin Spence (ankle), Paddy McAllister (knee), Peter Nelson (knee), Mike McComish (shoulder).