Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Newport-Gwent Dragons

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Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Newport-Gwent Dragons

Post by ADM » Fri Oct 31, 2014 1:24 pm

[tag=image]http://uafc.co.uk/images2/Newport_gwent ... _badge.png[/tag][tag=content]For all intents and purposes the last two weeks didn’t happen.

Whatever you attribute our two losses to, they matter not any longer. We are back to Pro12 action tomorrow and that must be the sole focus: if there is any sort of a Champions’ Cup hangover then we risk losing ground in the Pro12 too and that would be incredibly detrimental considering it appears that it’s already the only competition we stand a chance of winning (including the British & Irish Cup).

Although we’re missing a few players for the international break, I think everyone realises how incredibly important this game is to win. We need to get back on the winning trail after the disappointments of Leicester and Toulon, and with an opposition as depleted as the Newport-Gwent Dragons this is a perfect opportunity for us to get another five-pointer on the board and close the gap on the Ospreys.

And as fans, we are entitled to the reaction that will get us the five points a la Connacht last year following Saracens. Last week 17,000 of us showed up to watch us be easily defeated by probably the best side in Europe, and those 17,000 deserve to be shown that we are still a force to be reckoned with by putting a considerable amount of points on sub-standard opposition in the Dragons (no offence in them).

Time to shake our inability to put away these teams with ease. These games at home, regardless of what team we’re able to put out, should be guaranteed wins and then simply a question of how many tries we can run in. So far this season we’ve required late tries to secure bonus points over Zebre and Edinburgh – this week must see a change in intensity that will see us home with plenty to spare.

Still, just bear in mind that the Dragons won at Stade Français a couple of weeks ago, so as low as they sit in the Pro12 they will pose some threats. They are also in a similar situation to us in that their side is heavily depleted by injuries and international call-ups so there will undoubtedly be several fringe and younger players determined to make their mark when their chance is presented to them – in some ways unknown players can be just as dangerous as household names.

But for us, there is one aim: the bonus point that will keep us going in the right direction in the league. Many on here think that winning the Champions’ Cup is beyond us, and I don’t know whether that’s the mood within the camp as well, but certainly it does appear to be the greatest chance of winning silverware. And even now, if the hope that a home semi-final is to be maintained then another five points is necessary.

There are seven changes and two positional switches made by Neil Doak including a competitive debut for back row Sean Reidy at openside flanker. In all there are three changes to the back line with Stuart Olding shifting to full-back and Louis Ludik moving onto the wing, with Darren Cave and Stuart McCloskey forming a new centre partnership. Peter Nelson fills the other wing berth. In the forwards Rob Herring and Callum Black join Wiehahn Herbst in the front row, with Clive Ross and Sean Reidy joining captain Roger Wilson in the back row.

Six changes for Kingsley Jones with a clean split of three in the backs and three in the forwards. Jason Tovey returns from injury to start at full-back in place of injured captain Lee Byrne while Aled Brew is reintroduced on the wing with Rhys Williams getting a first start for the Dragons since signing in the summer. Up front Boris Stankovich is recalled to the front row after injury while T Rhys Thomas is brought in at hooker. James Benjamin is the final change, coming into the back row at openside flanker.

The Champions’ Cup is gone, the Pro12 is all we should be looking forward to now. This is the time for young players to step up, fringe players to show they are worth their places and for the old heads to use their experience to guide the side to the win. Games like these bring out the best in the squad and for the first time in several years it’s time for us to finally prove that we do indeed have one of the best squads in the league.

C’mon guys, a bit of a change from previous years please?

Ulster Rugby vs. Newport-Gwent Dragons
Saturday 1st November, 19:35
Kingspan Stadium
Guinness Pro12 – Round 7

Live on BBC2 NI/S4C

ULSTER RUGBY
15. Stuart Olding, 14. Louis Ludik, 13. Darren Cave, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Peter Nelson, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Paul Marshall; 1. Callum Black, 2. Rob Herring, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 4. Lewis Stevenson, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Clive Ross, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Roger Wilson (capt.).

16. John Andrew, 17. Andrew Warwick, 18. Declan Fitzpatrick, 19. Robbie Diack, 20. Robbie Diack, 21. Michael Heaney, 22. Ian Humphreys, 23. Ricky Andrew.

NEWPORT-GWENT DRAGONS
15. Jason Tovey, 14. Matthew Pewtner, 13. Rhys Williams, 12. Ashley Smith, 11. Aled Brew, 10. Angus O’Brien, 9. Richie Rees; 1. Boris Stankovich, 2. T Rhys Thomas, 3. Dan Way, 4. James Thomas, 5. Rynard Landman (capt.), 6. Lewis Evans, 7. James Benjamin, 8. Andy Powell.

16. Elliot Dee, 17. Owen Evans, 18. Lloyd Fairbrother, 19. Scott Andrews, 20. Ollie Griffiths, 21. Jonathan Evans, 22. Geraint Rhys Jones, 23. Ashton Hewitt.

Referee: Matteo Liperini (FIR, 8th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll, Paul Haycock (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Wayne Sheridan (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)[/tag]

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