Tuohy returns to strong Ulster squad for clash against Scarlets
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe may be able to call on the services of Ireland international secondrow Dan Tuohy for tomorrow night’s RaboDirect Pro 12 game against the Scarlets as he resumed training this week following a torn calf muscle sustained in the defeat to Northampton Saints last month.
Anscombe has named an extended 26-man squad as he welcomes back a host of internationals, including Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Rory Best, Iain Henderson and stand-in captain Chris Henry for a match that pits leaders Ulster against their closest pursuers in the table.
It also marks a run of three very important matches for the Irish province as they face Glasgow Warriors and Castres Olympique in the final two pool matches of the Heineken Cup. Henry reflected on a December that had seen Ulster lose their unbeaten record this season.
“The Northampton game was disappointing because of the dip in performance level.
“They brought an intensity that we had displayed the previous week in their place and we didn’t match them.
“They deserved their win on the night. It was not the result we expected and we spoke about how important it was for us to get things right in terms of attitude, focus and intensity on the training ground as well as the pitch.
“There was so much pressure going into the Leinster match. They are a tough team for us to play against and the win was very encouraging. As a squad we took positives out of the defeat to Munster. There is depth in the squad and it’s provided added competition for places.
“Momentum is very important going into the next few matches and that starts with the Scarlets match. As players you don’t look too far ahead but we know what’s at stake.
“ We want to try and extend the gap (at the top of the table) and be able to approach the European games in a positive frame of mind.
“We have missed out before (in Europe) by a point here and no one wants to revisit those times. If we can keep winning then there is a massive incentive to potentially earn a home quarter-final. It has be so special to have that advantage. The motivation is there as is the work-rate and the drive.”
Meanwhile, Connacht coach Eric Elwood has been boosted by the return to fitness of centres Kyle Tonetti and Mata Fifita. They won’t be available for Saturday’s game against the Newport Gwent Dragons at the Sportsground but will play for their respective clubs, Buccaneers and Lansdowne, this weekend.
Outhalf Miah Nikora may return this weekend following a groin injury, while wing Fetu’u Vainikolo, who missed the Leinster match, is expected to play against the Dragons.
Debutant Matt Healy fractured a hand at the RDS and will be out for three to four weeks. Johnny O’Connor is doubtful.
Elwood admitted: “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. 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.”
ULSTER: R Herring, R Best, N Annett, C Black, T Court, J Afoa, A Macklin, L Stevenson, N McComb, D Tuohy, I Henderson, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams, R Wilson, P Marshall, M Heaney, R Pienaar, P Jackson, L Marshall, P Wallace, D Cave, C Gilroy, A Trimble, J Payne, A D’Arcy.