Time for Ulster to press their case for playoff spot
Jono Gibbes makes four changes in advance of Edinburgh clash
Off the back of a hat-trick against the Southern Kings and signing an extended Ulster contract Craig Gilroy is one of the “left behind” players who could be trying to catch Joe Schmidt’s eye. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ulster v Edinburgh Kingspan Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm (Live BBC NI)
If he didn’t know about Edinburgh before, Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes does now. The Scottish club stole a late one on Leinster last weekend and Ulster will be aware that caution is advised.
Ulster’s big victory over South African side Southern Kings in Belfast came with consequences. Fullback Louis Ludik, winger Tommy Bowe and backrow Jean Deysel replace the injured Charles Piutau, Rob Lyttle and Sean Reidy, while Rob Herring is released from Ireland duty to start at hooker.
In total Gibbes has made four changes from last week. It is worth noting injured winger Rob Lyttle’s 120 metres made in Belfast was the most of anyone across all Pro14 action.
Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has made five changes to his side, among them number eight Cornell du Preez, who is coming back from Scotland duty to strengthen the back row.
“They have a good team and very strong squad, and they’ve had their difficulties for obvious reasons,” noted Cockerill.
There’s just three points separating the clubs in the conference with Ulster struggling to find a consistency of performance. There are also several players involved who feel they belong with Joe Schmidt, among them Craig Gilroy, Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall and perhaps scrumhalf John Cooney.
These matches are always shop windows for the ‘left behind’ players. If Ulster truly believe they are playoff material now is the time to kick on or this could wind up being a lost season.
ULSTER: L Ludik; C Gilroy, L Marshall, S McCloskey, T Bowe; J McPhillips, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, W Herbst, A O’Connor (Captain), K Treadwell, M Rea, N Timoney, J Deysel. Replacements: J Andrew, K McCall, R Ah You, M Dalton, C Henry, J Stewart, D Cave, D Busby.
EDINBURGH: D Fife’ J Harries, M Bennett, C Dean15. Dougie Fife (98), D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, S Hidalgo-Klyne; J Lay, N Cochrane, M McCallum, F McKenzie, L Carmichael, B Mata, J hardie, C du Preez. Replacements: C Fenton, R Sutherland, E Millar Mills, M Bradbury, L Crosbie, N Fowles, D Weir, G Byrne
Referee: J Mason (WRU)