Rory Best to make 150th Ulster appearance against Leicester
Prop Callum Black to make his competition debut in Pool 5 decider at Welford Road
Ulster forwards Rory Best, Callum Black and Dan Tuohy arrive for training at Pirrie Park in Belfast on Thursday. Photograph: Brian Little/Inpho/Presseye
“Obviously 150 caps is a great achievement”, said Best today, having been named following a rapid recovery from a broken arm he sustained in Ireland’s agonising defeat to New Zealand in November. “It is nice to get, but you would swap all that for a home quarter-final.
He added: “It (the match against Leicester Tigers) has the potential to be a great day for us. It is something that we have talked about a lot over the last couple of years, once we started to get out of the group and into the quarters for the first time.
“We said then the next thing we wanted was a home one. We have put ourselves in a great position to do that at this stage. We are the only team in Europe unbeaten and we need to make sure we get to Saturday night maintaining that. We have put ourselves in positions like this before.
“Last year we were in a great position in the December games and then let that slip. That ultimately cost us the home quarter-final, so we want to make sure we do everything right this weekend.”
Craig Gilroy has recovered from the injury that he sustained against Montpellier and starts on the left wing but prop Declan Fitzpatrick was unavailable for selection having sustained concussion in last weekend’s game.
Munster’s only change comes in the frontrow with Stephen Archer named at tighthead for their final Pool 6 tie at home to Edinburgh at Thomond Park on Sunday (12.45pm).
BJ Botha moves to the bench due to Archer’s inclusion, with Paddy Butler taking over from CJ Stander as replacement backrow forward on the bench.
Connacht make four changes for their game away to Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday (1.35pm), with Dan Parks coming back in at outhalf in place of Jack Carty and Gavin Duffy returning at fullback ahead of Darragh leader.
There are two changes in the pack, with Craig Clarke coming back into the secondrow to captain the side. He will form a new partnership at lock with Michael Swift also coming into the side to allow Andrew Browne move to blindside flanker. That move is necessitated by an injury to number eight Eoin McKeon, with John Muldoon moving from number six.
“This is a huge game for Connacht Rugby, we all know that,” said Connacht coach Pat Lam today. “Win and we qualify for a quarter-final in Europe. Big games require your big players to step up and lead the way, so it’s great to be able to call on four of our most experienced players Gavin, Dan, Swifty and Craig this week.
“We were unfortunate to lose Eoin McKeon to injury in training this week. He has had to have surgery on his hand and is likely to be out of action for up to two months. It’s a big loss to our backrow resources.
“We have a lot of respect for what Saracens are achieving. They are well coached, well resourced and top of the English premiership, with an excellent stadium. They have only lost once on this new 4G surface and they have racked up a high number of points against opposition teams. If we play as individuals, it will be a long day at the office tomorrow.”
ULSTER (v Leicester, Welford Road, Saturday, 6.0pm): Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best, John Afoa; Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy; Roger Wilson, Chris Henry, Nick Williams. Replacements: Rob Herring, Tom Court, Ricky Lutton, Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, David McIlwaine, Michael Allen.
CONNACHT (v Saracens, Allianz Park, Saturday 1.35pm): Gavin Duffy; Fionn Carr, Robbie Henshaw, Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Seán Henry, Nathan White; Michael Swift, Craig Clarke (capt); Andrew Browne, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon. Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Mick Kearney, George Naoupu, Paul O’Donohoe, Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran.
MUNSTER (v Edinburgh, Thomond Park, Sunday, 12.45pm): Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer; David Foley, Paul O’Connell; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan. Replalcements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo.