Ulster challenge sees four changes to starting XV

As Edinburgh travel to Belfast to take on Ulster in a crucial clash between sides sitting equal on points in the Guinness PRO12, head coach Alan Solomons has made four changes to the starting XV that defeated Dragons at BT Murrayfield last Friday.

Greig Tonks, who tweaked his hamstring in the early stages of last weekend’s bonus-point win, is replaced at full back by Jack Cuthbert with Dougie Fife returning from injury to pull on the 14 jersey worn by one of last week’s four try scorers, Tom Brown, who is out with a shoulder injury.

Chris Dean and Matt Scott maintain their partnership at centre with Will Helu retaining his place on the left wing. Meanwhile in half-backs, stand-off Phil Burleigh is paired with scrum-half Sean Kennedy as Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is out with a hand injury.

Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel again make up the front row with Anton Bresler returning to partner Alex Toolis in the second row, with Fraser McKenzie sidelined with a neck injury. Mike Coman again leads the team at blindside with John Hardie at openside and Cornell Du Preez completing the back row.

While Edinburgh sit one place above the hosts in the table, through having achieved more wins, seven of Ulster’s 23 points come from bonus points, as opposed to three out of 23 for the visitors.
Head coach Alan Solomons said: “Last Friday’s bonus-point win over Dragons was important for us and we must build on that momentum, going into tomorrow’s match.

 “Ulster at the Kingspan in front of a home crowd will be a tough ask, without a doubt, and we have to make sure that we are at our best. This will be a real test for the team, and especially for our strength in depth, bearing in mind our heavy injury toll.” 

The brief return to league action comes between two opening pool wins against FC Grenoble and away to Agen, and two back-to-back fixtures against London Irish which kick off next weekend, affording Edinburgh the opportunity to nail the mid-table position going into this year’s 1872 Scottish Cup derby with Glasgow Warriors.

Solomons added: “We have the benefit of a relatively unchanged line-up going into this match, and welcome back Anton Bresler and Dougie Fife from injury, to add stability to the second row and backs respectively. With Fraser McKenzie out, Anton’s return is particularly timely.

 “Though we’ve beaten Ulster twice this season – at home in the PRO12 and in our pre-season friendly – we know we have to be absolutely at the top of our game on Friday.” 

The last time Edinburgh achieved a season league double over the Ulstermen was in 2007/8 and have not won in Belfast since September 2009.

Players not considered due to injury: Tom Brown (shoulder), Grant Gilchrist (groin), Roddy Grant (knee), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (hand), Damien Hoyland (leg), Otulea Katoa (leg), Nasi Manu (neck), Stuart McInally (neck), Fraser McKenzie (neck), Jade Te Rure (knee), Greig Tonks (leg), Ben Toolis (arm), George Turner (shoulder).

Edinburgh Rugby v Ulster, Friday 4 December, Kingspan Stadium, k/o 7.35pm

15 Jack Cuthbert

14 Dougie Fife

13 Chris Dean

12 Matt Scott

11 Will Helu

10 Phil Burleigh

9 Sean Kennedy

 

1 Alasdair Dickinson

2 Ross Ford

3 WP Nel

4 Anton Bresler

5 Alex Toolis

6 Mike Coman (capt)

7 John Hardie

8 Cornell Du Preez

 

Substitutes

16 Neil Cochrane

17 Rory Sutherland

18 John Andress

19 Jamie Ritchie

20 Hamish Watson

21 Nathan Fowles

22 Michael Allen

23 Blair Kinghorn