Trimble pips Gilroy for Ulster wing berth
Heineken Cup team news:Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has left new international wing sensation Craig Gilroy out of his starting XV as the province puts its unbeaten run on the line in the Heineken Cup Pool Four clash against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night (8.0pm).
Gilroy took over from his Ulster team-mate Andrew Trimble for the game against Argentina, scoring the opening try and acquitting himself well on his full Test debut, but he misses out for the crunch clash against the Saints as Trimble gets the nod on the left wing.
In total Ulster make eighth changes and a positional switch from the side that played the Scarlets last weekend.
Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Wallace and Jared Payne have been included at scrumhalf, inside centre and fullback respectively, while Tommy Bowe, who was on bench duty last weekend, will line out on the right wing for his 50th Heineken Cup appearance.
Outhalf Paddy Jackson and outside Darren Cave retain their places in the backline.
Up front, Ireland internationals Rory Best and Tom Court replace Rob Herring and Callum Black in the frontrow alongside John Afoa, while captain Johann Muller is joined in the secondrow by regular partner Dan Tuohy. Iain Henderson, Chris Henry and Roger Wilson make up a strong backrow.
Commenting on some tough selection calls, Anscombe said: “There were some difficult decisions but that’s what you want. The guys who have missed out this week have been outstandingly positive and that’s very pleasing.
Focussing on the forward battle in store on Friday, he said: “They have a strong pack and they build their game around that. They don’t hide from that fact and they’re confident in it. Their set piece is very strong and we’ve got to be excited about meeting that front on.
“We’ve got to conquer them up front if we’re going to compete because you’ve got to have front foot ball. The tight five have to step up and show their qualities, but I’m confident in them, they’ve all played international rugby.”
England flanker Tom Wood returns from autumn Test duty to pack down at openside for Saints, while fullback Ben Foden also features after making a successful return from injury against Premiership opponents Sale last Friday.
Northampton coach Jim Mallinder has billed the game as “a massive challenge” for his players.
“Ulster have a strong winning habit this season and are coming to Franklin’s Gardens in the best possible form,” Mallinder said. “Their squad is full of talented players who time and again this season have shown a never-say-die attitude and the ability to get the scores when they needed them.
“It is going to be a massive challenge for us, we know that. But training has been very positive this week and we are coming into the game on the back of three successive wins ourselves.
“However, all of the players know that they will have to take a step up from those performances and play for the full 80 minutes if we are to get the result we want.”
Meanwhile, Connacht coach Eric Elwood has made two changes ho his starting team for Friday’s home clash against Biarritz at the Sportsground (8.0pm).
Mike McCarthy makes a return from international duty to partner Mick Kearney in the secondrow, with Andrew Browne moving to blindside flanker. Willie Faloon and Eoin McKeon also come in from the side that lost by a point to Edinburgh. In the backs Fetu’u Vainkolo replaces an injured Gavin Duffy on the left wing.
On the bench, we see hooker Ethienne Reynecke return to the squad from injury last week. He joins Denis Buckley and JP Cooney as the frontrow replacements.
ULSTER (v Northampton Saints, Friday, Franklin’s Gardens, 8.0pm):J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (c), D Tuohy, I Henderson, C Henry, R Wilson. Replacements:N Brady, C Black, R Lutton, R Diack, N Williams, P Marshall, L Marshall, C Gilroy.
NORTHAMPTON:B Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, D Waldouck, J Elliott; R Lamb, M Roberts; S Tonga'uiha, D Hartley (c), B Mujati, S Manoa, C Lawes, C Clark, T Wood, G-J van Velze. Replacements:M Haywood, A Waller, P Doran-Jones, M Sorenson, P Dowson, L Dickson, S Myler, T May.
CONNACHT (v Biarritz, Friday, Sportsground, 8.0pm):R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks (capt), K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, R Loughney, M Kearney, M McCarthy, A Browne, W Faloon, E McKeon. Replacements:E Reynecke, D Buckley, JP Cooney, D Qualter, J O’Connor, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, M Jarvis.
BIARRITZ:I Balshaw; T Ngwenya, C Gimenez, M Bosch, A Brew; M Berquist, D Yachvili (c); F Barcella, B August, F Gomez Kodela, E Lund, T Dubarry, W Lauret, B Guyot, R Lakafia. Replacements:J-P Genevois, T Synaeghel, W Blaauw, P Taele, I Harinordoquy, Y Lesgourgues, JP Barraque, S Burotu.