Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Newport-Gwent Dragons

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Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Newport-Gwent Dragons

Post by ADM »

[tag=image] ... ogo-93.jpg[/tag][tag=content]Alright, let's try and ignore the horrendous start to the season.

We have Anton Peikrishvili coming in to bolster our tighthead ranks, we still have the arrival of Marcell Coetzee to look forward to in January, Les Kiss has now had the squad for a full pre-season which should have us better prepared than last season, and we have a certain All Black full-back at our disposal who should be, at the very least, extremely fun to watch.

Ruan will be sorely missed, and it pains me that I am having to precede our first game of the season by writing about his impending departure, but for the moment we will simply have to accept it is happening and get on with the season in the meantime. Hopefully we will see the emergence of either Dave Shanahan or Angus Lloyd as a potential successor by the end of the year.

But for now all we can do is look ahead to our opening game of the season as we launch our latest Pro12 campaign and hope it doesn't end in the usual May disappointment in Dublin. Fortunately we've been granted a rather easy start to the season in the shape of a visit to Treviso next week after tomorrow's start against the Dragons.

Theoretically we should be on ten points after two rounds. If we want to be title contenders then it's really what we should be aiming for against two of the league's lower sides, and all the talk in pre-season has been focused towards finding the consistency early on to carry through the season.

The Dragons will not make it easy though, and we know from last season that they do like to up their game for the big teams. There were six places between us in the league last season, and yet we only won the two games by an aggregate of six points - a testament to how hard the men of Gwent work, even if they don't get the results.

They've had a tough off-season, losing Taulupe Faletau to Bath has hurt them greatly, and they haven't strengthened much in response. Nick MacLeod and Craig Mitchell will add experience to their squad, but realistically this Dragons team isn't any stronger than it was last season and they should be treated that way. Not with complacency, but in the knowledge that this is a game we are more than capable of winning.

We've waited a while for Charles to arrive, and now we get to see him in a competitive environment - no doubt he will be just as adept tomorrow as he was against Northampton. And now we finally get back into the thick of the action in the Guinness Pro12. It'll be another long old slog, as it always is, with plenty of ups and downs, but we have to keep our goal in mind as we embark on another campaign.

If we want to send Ruan out on a high, it starts now.

The teams
Ulster hand competitive debuts to new summer signings Charles Piutau (full-back) and Brett Herron (fly-half), and also to Academy prop Ross Kane. Ruan Pienaar returns from injury to start at scrum-half while the international trio of Sean Reidy, Stuart Olding and Craig Gilroy are all named in the starting line-up.

The Dragons also give debuts to Sam Beard (centre), Pat Howard (wing), Nick MacLeod (fly-half), Sam Hobbs (loosehead prop) and Craig Mitchell (tighthead prop). Rynard Landman returns from injury and is named in the starting line-up with Wales international Tyler Morgan released back to the club to be named among the replacements.

Ulster Rugby vs. Newport-Gwent Dragons
Friday 2nd September, 19:35
Kingspan Stadium
Guinness PRO12 - Round 1

Live on BBC2 Northern Ireland

15. Charles Piutau, 14. Craig Gilroy, 13. Stuart Olding, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Jacob Stockdale, 10. Brett Herron, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Callum Black, 2. Rob Herring (capt.), 3. Ross Kane, 4. Pete Browne, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Clive Ross, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Roger Wilson.

Replacements: 16. John Andrew, 17. Kyle McCall, 18. Andy Warwick, 19. Alan O'Connor, 20. Robbie Diack, 21. Paul Marshall, 22. Sam Windsor, 23. Robert Lyttle.

15. Carl Meyer, 14. Adam Warren, 13. Sam Beard, 12. Jack Dixon, 11. Pat Howard, 10. Nick MacLeod, 9. Sarel Pretorius; 1. Sam Hobbs, 2. T Rhys Thomas (capt.), 3. Craig Mitchell, 4. Cory Hill, 5. Rynard Landman, 6. Ollie Griffiths, 7. Nic Cudd, 8. Ed Jackson.

Replacements: 16. Rhys Buckley, 17. Thomas Davies, 18. Lloyd Fairbrother, 19. Nick Crosswell, 20. Lewis Evans, 21. Charlie Davies, 22. Angus O'Brien, 23. Tyler Morgan.[/tag]
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