Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Exeter Chiefs

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Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Exeter Chiefs

Post by ADM »

[tag=image] ... go.svg.png[/tag][tag=content]First and foremost, the rugby takes second place this week.

Last Sunday we lost a legend of the game. The news of Anthony Foley's death rocked the rugby community, and at just 42 it came as a shock to everyone. As the European matches continue, Axel will be commemorated across Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France and Italy, a true reflection on how much he impacted rugby, not only in Munster and Ireland.

There will be a minute's silence before every game this weekend, including at the Kingspan Stadium, along with choruses of the Fields of Athenry up and down the country as we say goodbye to one of the greatest men to play the game. Sing loud and sing proud in his memory.

But we do still have a rugby match to play as well, and we're not out of this just yet.

True, getting a bonus point from Bordeaux would have been a lot preferable to nothing, but we've been dealt the hand we have and now we have to react. We're not in needing a bonus point range just yet, but it would be very helpful if we could hit some form and run a few tries past the Chiefs like Clermont did.

It won't be that easy though because, as much as we're hurting and looking for a reaction to last week, so are they. For all intents and purposes, our hurt and anger probably cancels each other out.

That doesn't change the scenario for both teams though - whoever loses this game is out of the competition. Exeter are already up against it having lost a home game, which is a big no-no in Europe, while our Champions Cup campaign is still somewhat salvageable if things go our way over the next five games.

But if we want to keep our slim qualification hopes alive, we need to overcome a very talented Exeter squad, who have a couple of familiar faces among their ranks. While neither Ian Whitten or Gareth Steenson will have too much input into our squad right now, they are Ulstermen and it'll be nice to welcome them back.

Ironically, they're two of Exeter's biggest threats. Steenson runs the line excellently from fly-half, so much so he's managed to oust England international Henry Slade, while Whitten has been excelling for the Chiefs at both wing and centre, where he is a mainstay in their back line. Along with Lachie Turner from full-back, they have some serious danger and pace in their backs.

Where their real threat lies, however, is in their driving maul, which has been their most potent weapon for several years. Marshalled excellently by Geoff Parling in the second row, with Thomas Waldrom providing some considerable ballast from number eight for good measure, they are one of the most dangerous sides in all of Europe from five metres out. Our maul defence has been excellent recently, but it will need to be exemplary this week or we will be punished.

However, you would really like to hope that after two defeats in a row we will be in a very determined frame of mind to rectify it. Our European season is very much on the line this weekend and, while I think we will still all admit we're not going to win it outright this season, it would be nice to at least keep it going beyond Round Two.

We have Charlie back this week at his better (although not preferred) position of wing, we have Ruan passed fit to start, and we have two game changers on the bench in Gilly and Tommy. If that backline can get quick ball, which it should do with Sean Reidy back at openside, then there's always the possibility that we could run riot.

Right now, though, let's settle for four points.

The teams
Les Kiss makes four changes to the team that lost to Bordeaux last weekend, with Charles Piutau back from concussion to start on the wing in place of Craig Gilroy. The other three changes are all up front as Kyle McCall gets a start as part of the loosehead rotation, while Pete Browne is preferred to Alan O'Connor at lock and Roger Wilson comes in for Clive Ross in the back row.

Four changes also for Rob Baxter and his Chiefs side, who do start both Ian Whitten and Gareth Steenson. In the backs Whitten is moved from the wing to centre allowing James Short to start on the wing at the expense of Ollie Devoto, who is on the bench, while Henry Slade also comes into the team at inside centre in place of Sam Hill. In the pack, club captain Jack Yeandle replaces the injured Luke Cowan-Dickie at hooker, while Mitch Lees starts in the second row ahead of Damian Welch.

Ulster Rugby vs. Exeter Chiefs
Saturday 22nd October, 19:45
Kingspan Stadium
European Rugby Champions Cup - Pool Game 2

Live on BT Sport 2

15. Jared Payne, 14. Andrew Trimble (capt.), 13. Luke Marshall, 12. Stuart Olding, 11. Charles Piutau, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Kyle McCall, 2. Rory Best, 3. Rodney Ah You, 4. Pete Browne, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Iain Henderson, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Roger Wilson.

Replacements: 16. Rob Herring, 17. Andy Warwick, 18. Ross Kane, 19. Alan O'Connor, 20. Clive Ross, 21. Paul Marshall, 22. Craig Gilroy, 23. Tommy Bowe.

15. Lachie Turner, 14. Olly Woodburn, 13. Ian Whitten, 12. Henry Slade, 11. James Short, 10. Gareth Steenson, 9. Dave Lewis; 1. Moray Low, 2. Jack Yeandle (capt.), 3. Harry Williams, 4. Mitch Lees, 5. Geoff Parling, 6. Kai Horstmann, 7. Julian Salvi, 8. Thomas Waldrom.

Replacements: 16. Elvis Taione, 17. Carl Rimmer, 18. Tomas Francis, 19. Jonny Hill, 20. Dave Dennis, 21. Jack Maunder, 22. Sam Hill, 23. Ollie Devoto.

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (FFR)
Assistant Referees: Thomas Charabas, Cedric Clave (both FFR)
TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin (FFR)[/tag]
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2014 9:17 am

Re: Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Exeter Chiefs

Post by Midget6 »

Great read. As always!
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