Ulster’s winning streak to be extended in Wales
Mike Stanley to make first appearance for province against Dragons
Samoan international Mike Stanley makes his first start for Ulster at inside centre. Photograph: Inpho.
Newport-Gwent Dragons v Ulster
Rodney Parade, Sunday, 4.0, BBC 2
Momentum is such a key component during the Six Nations window and it’s something Ulster are looking to maintain as they chase a fifth successive win of the campaign.
Coach Neil Doak has had to juggle his resources given suspensions to centre Luke Marshall and number eight Roger Wilson. Samoan international Mike Stanley starts in an Ulster jersey for the first time alongside Darren Cave, who also achieves a first in his 155th appearance for the province by captaining the team.
Iain Henderson has been released by Ireland and selection at blindside flanker offsets the loss of Wilson.
The visitors will be confident the pack can provide a decent platform for halfbacks Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys. Robbie Diack is fit again and is on the bench, where Ulster have named teenager Sam Arnold.
The Dragons have won just two of their last seven matches at Rodney Parade and were beaten last time out in Italy by Zebre. Secondrow Andrew Coombs returns following a back injury. There is one other change to the team that lost to Zebre as James Benjamin is named at flanker.
It won’t be easy but Ulster should have the wherewithal to continue their winning run.
Dragons: G Rhys Jones; T Prydie, J Dixon, A Smith, H Amos; D Jones, J Evans; B Stankovich, T Rhys Thomas (capt), B Harris; A Coombs, C Hill; J Thomas, J Benjamin, N Crosswell. Replacements: R Buckley, P Price, L Fairbrother, M Screech, S Matthews, L Jones, C Meyer, A Hewitt.
Ulster: L Ludik; C Gilroy, D Cave (capt), M Stanley, M Allen; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst; D Tuohy, F Van der Merwe; I Henderson, C Ross, N Williams. Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, B Ross, L Stevenson, R Diack, P Marshall, S Arnold, R Scholes.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland).