Preview and team news: Ulster v Munster RaboDirect PRO12, Friday 14th September, Ravenhill (7.05pm)
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Ulster welcomes Munster to Ravenhill on Friday night for the first provincial derby of the new season. Both sides will put their 100% records on the line for the clash while for Munster there is added incentive of gaining revenge for their Heineken cup defeat at the quarter final stage last season.
Ulster gained impressive wins over the Glasgow Warriors and reigning champions the Osprey’s in their opening two games while Munster beat Edinburgh and Treviso. Rabodirect honours were even last season with Ulster winning 33-17 at Ravenhill before going down 36-8 in Limerick while Munster’s only win in the last five years in Belfast was 16-6 in 2010.
Ulster‘s Stephen Ferris will win his 100th Ulster cap at blindside with Tom Court, John Afoa and Nigel Brady forming an all new front three. Despite naming Dan Tuohy and Chris Henry in his extended squad for the game, Anscombe has decided to spare the duo from senior action and instead the pair will start for the Ravens in their clash with the Munster “A” side.
Craig Gilroy, who dazzled in the Heineken cup over Munster last April, drops to the bench with the equally efficient Andrew Trimble coming on in his place while Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson will combine at half back in place of Michael Heaney and Niall O’Connor.
In total there are seven changes to the side that beat the Osprey’s last weekend and the New Zealander was quick to point out that players would be picked on form, taking the inclusion of Nigel Brady as an example, “Rob Herring has done well, he’s a young guy learning his trade at hooker and we’re happy with the way he’s progressing but Nigel came on last week and his experience came through. His scrummaging was outstanding and he contributed around the park and that’s what we want. It’s a matter of keeping everyone accountable for their performance and Nigel took his chance last week and has been rewarded.”
Munster coach Rob Penney has meanwhile kept faith with the same backline that helped beat Treviso last time out however there are changes in the forwards with Donnacha O’Callaghan, BJ Botha and Dave Kilcoyne all coming in.
Munster are also boosted by the presence of Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara and Conor Murray to the squad, with the Irish trio set to make their maiden appearance of the season from the bench.
Teams: Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, M Allen; P Jackson, P Marshall; T Court, N Brady, J Afoa, J Muller (c), L Stevenson, S Ferris, S Doyle, N Williams; Replacements: R Herring, C Black, D Fitzpatrick, N McComb, M McComish, M Heaney, P Nelson, C Gilroy. Munster: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett Capt., Casey Laulala, James Downey, Luke O’Dea; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan. Replacements: Mike Sherry, Marcus Horan, Stephen Archer, Dave Foley, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Murray, Ronan O’Gara, Keith Earls.