Thursday 27 April 2017

McLaughlin to rejig as Ulster stars return for Cardiff trip

Ulster will have all their peripheral Ireland players available for Friday's Pro12 clash against Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park.

Paddy Wallace, Tom Court and Chris Henry all return to the fray, with coach Brian McLaughlin set to rejig his starting line-up following their bonus-point win over the Dragons last week.

Wallace, after his late call-up for Paris last week, returns to resume his midfield partnership with Nevin Spence, while back-row forward Henry will assume the captaincy from All Black John Afoa.

Court will again pack down at loose-head, despite calls for him to switch over to the right to get some time there in case he is needed as an emergency call-up for Ireland.

Dan Tuohy, who was released last week, will again start in the engine room alongside Lewis Stevenson.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin's plans to give impressive Dungannon flanker Ali Birch a first start were dashed when the back-row twisted his knee against the Dragons.

"We were not particularly concerned after the injury, but an MRI scan yesterday showed some damage, and we will have to wait and see what the medics say," said McLaughlin, who is set to move the in-form Stefan Terblanche to full-back and bring in Ian Whitten to the right wing.

"We were certainly happy with the five-pointer last week, but it was not a brilliant performance by any means. Our penalty count was way above our normal, and we were a little rusty overall.

"With the Blues back to their usual home at the Arms Park, it will be a more difficult task for us. It looks as if it will again be a full house and it will create a great atmosphere."

McLaughlin also said that both Pedrie Wannenburg and skipper Johann Muller are hopeful of being available for next week's clash against Edinburgh at Ravenhill.

"Pedrie had a fitness test yesterday, but the foot was still a little sore. Johann is receiving treatment for a slight calf tear, and again it is a case of wait and see. It's still a bit early for Darren Cave to be selected as he just started running this week after his hamstring injury."

Ulster squad -- Forwards: C Black, A Macklin, J Afoa, T Court, J Cronin, P McAllister, A Kyriacou, N Brady, L Stevenson, T Barker, D Tuohy, N McComb, W Faloon, C Henry (Capt), M McComish, R Diack. Backs: P Marshall, R Pienaar, I Porter, I Humphreys, L Marshall, P Wallace, I Whitten, N Spence, M Allen, S Terblanche, C Gilroy, C Gaston, S Danielli, C Cochrane, A D'Arcy.

Irish Independent

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