Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Scarlets

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Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Scarlets

Post by ADM »

[tag=image] ... AR4960.svg[/tag][tag=content]If you had offered us nine points from our first two games before the season began we probably would have taken it straight away. Still, it's not unfair after the chances we left out in Treviso to be a little upset we don't have 10.

But we are one of four teams left without a defeat to our names and, given our consistency at the start of the season has tended to be something of a weakness in recent years, it's good to see us put together back to back wins to get underway with the possibility of making it three on the bounce against a misfiring Scarlets side.

The Llanelli side have had a very disappointing start to the season, possibly under pressure of having the "best backline in Europe" (in their own words, it should be said), having lost at home to Munster and then away to Edinburgh, scoring just one try in those games and picking up no league points.

It's led to a lot of slack from their fans, who expected to be coming into this game on the same record as we are.

Their scrum has struggled due to injuries to frontline Wales internationals Rob Evans and Samson Lee, and their much-vaunted backline hasn't hit it straps in the two games so far, although in fairness to them they were both played in wet conditions. Tomorrow night should be dry, making it perfect weather for two brilliant backlines to play some fast, running rugby.

That should set off a lot of alarm bells though. When you look at the talent in the Scarlets' back division - Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell are all outstanding individuals - and then factor in they have the dual threat of Olympic silver medalist James Davies and John Barclay in the back row providing them with quick ball, it makes them a very dangerous side.

Not to mention they have the experience of doing the double over us last season, and given how easily they sliced our defence apart in this fixture last time round, they will be confident they can do so again. In fact, coach Wayne Pivac has gone as far as to say they have taken confidence going into this weekend with that in mind.

But, realistically, with the squad we have at our disposal - including the returns of Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson - we should be aiming for the four points here as we always do at home. Our backline is better than theirs (in my own words, it should be said!) and if we can negate the Davies/Barclay threat at the breakdown then we should have enough to win.

And congratulations to Rob Herring, who will captain the side on his 100th appearance for Ulster!

The stats
Ulster Rugby’s solitary defeat in their last seven Guinness PRO12 matches was to Leinster at the RDS Arena in last season’s semi-final.

The last time the Ulstermen started a PRO12 campaign with three straight victories was in season 2012/13, where they did not lose their first match until round 12.

Ulster have lost just once at Kingspan Stadium since early January: 20-21 to Scarlets on 21 February.

Scarlets have won only one of their last six Guinness PRO12 fixtures: over Newport Gwent Dragons on “Judgement Day” in April.

Scarlets only victory in their last twelve visits to an Irish province in any tournament was in Belfast in February.

Scarlets won both matches against Ulster in the Guinness PRO12 last season but have never won three in a row against the Irish province.

The teams
Eight changes for Ulster as Les Kiss welcomes back the international duo of Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson to the matchday squad. Jackson replaces Brett Herron at fly half in one of four changes to the back line, which also sees Stuart McCloskey named at inside centre in place of Luke Marshall with Stuart Olding moving to outside centre. Charles Piutau and Craig Gilroy both return to the back three after injury with Louis Ludik shifting to the wing. Callum Black comes back into the side at loosehead prop for Kyle McCall, while Pete Browne and Alan O'Connor form a new lock partnership. The final change sees Robbie Diack start at number eight ahead of Roger Wilson with Henderson named on the bench.

The Scarlets have made just three changes to the team that lost to Edinburgh last weekend. In the backline Aled Thomas is included at full-back with Liam Williams moving onto the wing, Hadleigh Parkes going to inside centre and Scott Williams dropping to the bench. Gareth Davies also replaces Aled Davies at scrum-half. Up front Lewis Rawlins comes into the team in place of Aaron Shingler at blindside flanker.

Ulster Rugby vs. Scarlets
Friday 16th September, 19:05
Kingspan Stadium
Guinness PRO12 - Round 3

Live on BBC2 Northern Ireland and BBC2 Wales

15. Charles Piutau, 14. Craig Gilroy, 13. Stuart Olding, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Louis Ludik, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Callum Black, 2. Rob Herring (capt.), 3. Rodney Ah You, 4. Pete Browne, 5. Alan O'Connor, 6. Clive Ross, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Robbie Diack.

Replacements: 16. John Andrew, 17. Andy Warwick, 18. Ross Kane, 19. Franco van der Merwe, 20. Iain Henderson, 21. Angus Lloyd, 22. Luke Marshall, 23. Rob Lyttle.

15. Aled Thomas, 14. Liam Williams, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Steff Evans, 10. Rhys Patchell, 9. Gareth Davies; 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens (capt.), 3. Werner Kruger, 4. Jake Ball, 5. David Bulbring, 6. Lewis Rawlins, 7. James Davies, 8. John Barclay.

Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Luke Garrett, 18. Peter Edwards, 19. Tadhg Beirne, 20. Will Boyde, 21. Aled Davies, 22. Scott Williams, 23. Steff Hughes.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 27th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Cammy Rudkin (SRU), Shane Kierans (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)
TMO: Charles Samson (SRU)[/tag]
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