Ulster face off against reigning European Champions Toulon on Saturday hoping to put last weekend’s defeat to Leicester behind them.
The defeat to Leicester was the first time Ulster have lost their opening game in Europe since 2008 and Head Coach Neil Doak is keen to get the Ulstermen back to winning ways.
Doak has made two changes to his side from last weekend with Wilson and Stuart Olding both named in the starting XV. Wilson comes in for Nick Williams at Number Eight, while Olding replaces Stuart McCloskey at inside centre. The rest of the team remains unchanged. Louis Ludik starts at fullback with Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy completing the back three. Payne retains his spot at outside centre whilst Jackson and Marshall make up the half back pairing.
Ulster’s ability to get anything from tomorrow’s match depends on how well they cope with Toulon fly half Matt Giteau. In the Scarlets match last weekend, the tricky Austrailian was targeted extensively by the Welsh side. Although Giteau and Toloun managed to do enough to win the match, a crucial weakness was revealed. Stop Giteau and you stop Toulon. It seems incredible that a team containing the likes of Halfpenny, Habana and others can be so one dimensional but last week’s match against Scarlets proved just that. Once Giteau was nullified, Toulon struggled to find any space. Should Ulster’s midfield find a way to stop the Aussie, they’ll be well on their way to shocking last year’s champions.
Despite the loss to Leicester last weekend, it appears that confidence is high in the Ulster camp. Speaking to UlsterRugby.com earlier today, Ireland International Chris Henry told reporters
“They’ve won the competition two years in a row and they’re a quality team but I’ve no doubt we’re going to turn up and put in a serious performance. When we’re on the money we can put any team away.
“The atmosphere at the Glasgow game two weeks ago was incredible and I think it’s going to be a step up from that again this weekend. That will give us a huge lift as well.”
Rory Best will make his 50th appearance for Ulster at the weekend, a feat he’ll be hoping to cap off with a win.
Ulster line out as follows:
Backline: Louis Ludik, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Stuart Olding, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall.
Forwards: Andrew Warwick, Rory Best (c), Wiehahn Herbst, Lewis Stevenson, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Robbie Wilson.
Rob Herring, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Chris Ross, Nick Williams, Michael Heaney, Ian Humphreys, Darren Cave.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena