Les Kiss makes 10 changes to Ulster for Dragons clash
Nick Timoney, Iain Henderson and Darren Cave among players included in squad
Nick Timoney in action for Ulster last year. The academy player will make his first appearance of the season tonight. Photograph: Brian Little/Inpho
Ulster v Dragons, Kingspan Stadium, Friday, 7.35pm (Live BBC NI)
Ulster will seek to maintain their winning start to the season as well as the evident feel-good factor around the Kingspan Stadium and thus, at the very least, stay within Leinster’s slipstream atop Conference B on Friday night.
Both coaches have rung the changes in earmarking this game as an opportunity to rotate their squads, with Les Kiss making 10 alterations to the starting line-up from last week’s gutsy and exciting win over the champions, the Scarlets.
Their academy player Nick Timoney will make his first appearance of the season after being named at number 8, and Iain Henderson is set to play his first game of the campaign, after being named on the bench, following his impressive Lions performances. Prop Rodney Ah You and lock Robbie Diack are brought into the tight five.
Darren Cave will make his first start of the season alongside Stuart McCloskey, their outstanding game breaker from last week. Paul Marshall and Pete Nelson will form a new halfback partnership, with Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau, has recovered from a hamstring injury, recalled to the tight five.
Bernard Jackman retains only two of the starting XV from last week’s win over Connacht. “We have changed the team up. If you look at the squad for the first three games it’s been pretty much the same group, bar a few injuries. At this stage in the season as a new coach and having new coaching staff we need to be able to give everybody a fair opportunity.
“We did give 62 players an opportunity in preseason and now they are going to get a chance to play in a Guinness Pro14 game and at a very tough place, and to go against a very good side we will find a lot out about them,” the Dragons head coach said.
“We’ll have more experience in our squad on Friday night than we had against Connacht in terms of pro games played, but obviously they have to get up to speed quickly.”
Make an impression
For his part, Kiss is understandably wary of a team which can swing from the hip and has a host of players seeking to make an impression, not least as Ulster should win.
“You can see some things coming out of the game that they’ll be looking for. They’re certainly playing a type of shape and we’re going through it too and you do look a bit of ugly duckling at times as you try to get there.”
“I thought they got quite a bit of that together and you could see how they have a bit of a killer instinct when they got down to the line which was a plus for them and then they had to defend which was a plus for them too. Connacht can play good footie and I think it was a good win for them,” said Kiss.
ULSTER: C Piatau; T Bowe, D Cave, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; P Nelson, P Marshall; K McCall, R Herring, R Ah You, R Diack, A O’Connor, C Ross, C Henry (captain), N Timoney.
Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, W Herbst, I Henderson, M Rea, D Shanahan, B Herron, R Lyttle.
DRAGONS: C Meyer, A Hughes, T Palamo, P Howard, G Gasson; D Jones, O Leonard; T Davies, G Ellis, L Fairbrother, M Screech, R Landman, M Williams, O Griffiths (capt), R Blake.
Replacements: R Buckley, P Price, B Harris, J Davies, L Greggains, D Blacker, A O’Brien, W Talbot-Davies.
Referee: D Jones (WRU).