Ulster and Munster will go head-to-head at Ravenhill for their last game of 2011 in the RaboDirect Pro12 and both sides will be looking to end the year with a win; kick-off on Friday at 7.05pm.
Both coaches will be without key players for this game with a mixture of injury and sickness as well as IRFU policy with regards selection factoring in.
Munster will be without Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donncha Ryan, Conor Murray, Ronan O’Gara and Keith Earls due to IRFU policy while a host of other names will miss the trip to Ulster due to injury, including David Wallace, Felix Jones, Jerry Flannery, Doug Howlett, Darragh Hurley, Peter O’Mahony and Denis Leamy.
Ulster have fewer players out as a result of the IRFU policy but the players that are out because of it are their most influential, as Tom Court, Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble will all play no part in Friday’s game.
Jared Payne is out after picking up an ankle injury against Aironi in their league clash while Paddy Wallace and Declan Fitzpatrick are still sidelined with long term injuries.
A tummy bug in the Ulster camp hasn’t helped matters as Tim Barker and Simon Danielli are out with that particular affliction.
Current league champions Munster left this fixture as winners last year with a score of 6-16 to the visitors enough to separate the sides on the night, but the odds are stacked up against Tony McGahan’s side for Friday’s game because of their squad’s depletion.
Ulster are favourites with Betfair.com at 1.47 but Munster should not be written off so easily and they look tempting to shock the home team at 2.94; check out the match odds here, at Betfair.com.
Munster have a poor record at Ravenhill and, before last year’s triumph, they hadn’t beaten Ulster away in four years.
Ian Keatley will need to be on target for Munster if they hope to peg back the home team with penalties and drop goals but it will be difficult for the out-half as Ravenhill is a notoriously difficult place for an away team to go.
Before the defeat to Leinster last week with a depleted squad, Ulster had put together a three match winning streak including a high-scoring win over Aironi in the Heineken Cup, so their spirits will be high going into Friday night’s game.
Munster have picked up three wins on the bounce since their early December defeat at the hands of second place Ospreys and a win at Ravenhill would be a big step going into the new year for Tony McGahan’s side.
Ulster: (15-9) A D’Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, I Whitten, S Terblanche; I Humphreys, R Pienaar (1-8) P McAllister, A Kyriacou, J Afoa, J Muller (Captain), D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, W Faloon, C Henry
Replacements: (16-23) N Brady, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, A Birch, P Marshall, C Farrell, P Nelson
Munster: (15-9) D Hurley; L O’Dea, T Gleeson, L Mafi, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, (1-8) D Varley, S Archer; I Nagle, M O’Driscoll (capt); Dave O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.
Replacements: (16-23) D Fogarty, M Horan, J Ryan, B Holland, P Butler, T O’Leary, S Deasy, W Chambers.