Fit again Pienaar starts for Ulster
Rugby:South African Ruan Pienaar, who has just comeback from a hamstring injury and prop Paddy McAllister have both been included in the starting team for Ulster’s Heineken Cup Pool 4 match against Aironi at Ravenhill on Friday (kick off 7.30pm).
Coach Brian McLaughlin has recalled Springbok, Pienaar at scrumhalf in place of Paul Marshall, who drops to the replacements bench. He is partnered at halfback by Ian Humphreys, while the backline remains otherwise unchanged.
McAllister is given a huge opportunity by McLaughlin in the loosehead prop position, with Ireland international Tom Court falling back to the bench.
Stefan Terblanche, who finally arrived in Belfast on Sunday after bureaucracy delayed his arrival, has gone straight into the replacements and will win his first cap for the Province if he takes the field.
The former South Africa international has the ability to cover fullback, wing and centre. Elsewhere on the bench, Andi Kyriacou will provide cover at hooker instead of Nigel Brady.
“Paul (Marshall) is a terrific player and has proved himself over the past few weeks,” said McLaughlin. “But Ruan was the Magner’s League Player of the Year last season so he deserves a chance. His match time has been limited so it will be good for him to get some time on the pitch. We now have two quality scrumhalves.
“It was important for Paddy McAllister’s development to start in a match at this level. And it means we have the option to bring a quality player like Tom on if we need to. We also have Stefan in the squad. He’s a true professional and will add a great deal to the team in terms of his experience. He’s an international player and has played for the Ospreys in Europe so he will be comfortable if he comes on.”
Ulster:A D’Arcy; A Trimble, D Cave, N Spence, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; P McAllister, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (capt), D Tuohy, S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg; Replacements (16-23): A Kyriacou, T Court, A Macklin, L Stevenson, R Diack, P Marshall, P Jackson, S Terblanche