Fit Tuohy eyes up Llanelli match
Rugby:International lock, Dan Tuohy is in line to feature against Llanelli following the resumption of training earlier this week. The second row suffered a torn calf muscle in Ulster’s 9-10 loss to Northampton three weeks ago but has reportedly responded well to treatment.
An extended Ulster squad of 26 players has been named ahead of Friday’s match at Ravenhill (kick off 7.05pm). Llanelli are the second placed team on the table.
Development hooker Niall Annett, who made a significant impact off the bench in Saturday’s defeat to Munster, has also been included despite Ireland’s Rory Best returning to the squad.
Best is one of a number of internationals included this week by coach Mark Anscombe’s. In the face of some criticism Anscombe rested his front line players in their away match against Munster last weekend. Andrew Trimble, Iain Henderson and Ruan Pienaar, are all available after missing the trip to Thomond Park.
Connacht has been boosted with the recent return to fitness of centres Mata Fifita and Kyle Tonetti. Neither will play against Dragons this weekend but will line out with their respective clubs -Bucanneers RFC and Lansdowne RFC - and are expected to be available for selection as the province looks to the Heineken Cup competition next week.
Out half Miah Nikora is also set to return over the next couple of weeks following a minor groin injury in the lead up to the game against Munster, while winger Fetu'u Vainikolo, who missed out last week, is set to return.
There were a few knocks picked up in Saturday's defeat to Leinster. Winger Matt Healy suffered a hand fracture and is expected to be out of action for three to four weeks, while flanker Johnny O'Connor’s involvement this weekend is in doubt.
As the province face into a big month of games both in the PRO12 and Heineken Cup competitions, Head Coach Eric Elwood looks ahead to the first game of 2013:
"This game against Dragons is a vitally important one for the club. We're side by side at the bottom of the table so this is a huge game for both teams,” said Elwood. “Obviously, with us at home, the pressure is on us to win it. The key thing is that we learn from the mistakes of the last two derby matches that we've had. And the main focus for us this weekend is about getting everything right ourselves to secure the win."
While Connacht achieved a double win over the men from Gwent last season, they were defeated 14-3 by the Dragons in November. Dragons have visited the Galway Sportsground on nine previous occasions and won only once, 32-14 on 1 May 2004 on their first ever visit to the venue.
Ulster: Forwards (15)Rob Herring, Rory Best, Niall Annett, Callum Black, Tom Court, John Afoa, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams, Roger Wilson. Backs (11)Paul Marshall, Michael Heaney, Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Paddy Wallace, Darren Cave, Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Adam D’Arcy.