Ulster can take Pro 12 route to return to winning ways

Stuart Olding starts at fullback for clash against Dragons (Ulster v Dragons, Ravenhill, 7.35pm)

Ulster outhalf Paddy Jackson: will be aware of competition for the number 10 jersey from Ian Humphreys. Photograph: Inpho

When Ulster last took leave of the Guinness Pro 12, with a stirring unlocking of Glasgow's defence, it seemed like anything was possible.

The Neil Doak/Les Kiss era in Belfast had really begun, making the journey to Leicester and visit of Toulon not seem so cruel.

A fortnight later the landscape is radically different. These jarring European defeats leaves their season in tatters by November.

That’s a reflection of the coaching and player upheaval in the summer. Denying that would be simply delusional now.


But on they go, confirming Bryn Cunningham as team manager this week. At least they are injecting plenty of young, local blood into the club's veins.

A gang of frontliners are in Ireland camp, the exception being Paddy Jackson, after being passed out by Munster's Ian Keatley, and now focusing on keeping Ian Humphreys out of the number 10 jersey at home.

Promising career

Stuart Olding starts at fullback as the province continues to see what position this undoubted talent will settle most snugly into before a promising career can really builds up a head of steam.

That means Louis Ludik switches to right wing with Stuart McCloskey still running the inside centre track. Jared Payne is held by Ireland so Darren Cave returns at 13.

The Dragons offer little threat although Andy Powell at number eight has pedigree but Ulster should return to winning ways without too much fuss.

After all, the league is the priority now.

ULSTER: S Olding; L Ludik, D Cave, S McCloskey P Nelson; P Jackson, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst; L Stevenson, F van der Merwe; C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson (capt); Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, D Fitzpatrick, N McComb, R Diack, M Heaney, I Humphreys, R Andrew.
DRAGONS: J Tovey; M Pewtner, R Williams, A Smith, A Brew; A O'Brien, R Rees; B Stankovich, TR Thomas, D Way; J Thomas, R Landman (capt); L Evans, J Benjamin, A Powell. Replacements: E Dee, O Evans, L Fairbrother, S Andrews, O Griffiths, J Evans, GR Jones, A Hewitt.
Referee: M Liperini (FIR).
Verdict: Ulster.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent