Jackson handed armband as Wilson reaches milestone
Published 20/02/2016 | 02:30
After three wins against sides well outside the top four, tomorrow's rare Sunday kick-off at the Kingspan Stadium pits Ulster against a title-chasing Scarlets side.
With Rob Herring out with a hamstring issue, Les Kiss has handed Paddy Jackson the captaincy for the first time.
Stuart McCloskey not being included in the match-day 23 is also notable. The centre was at Ireland's training camp in Mullingar yesterday and could well start at Twickenham if Jared Payne fails to shake off his hamstring injury.
Jackson partners Paul Marshall - Ruan Pienaar is benched after passing his return to play protocols - and has Luke Marshall on his outside, with the centre released from the Ireland camp.
Up front, Roger Wilson becomes only the second Ulster player to reach the landmark of 200 games for the province, and a lot of attention will be focused on Chris Henry's first start in a month.
Those two and Robbie Diack will have to do extra ball-carrying in the absence of the injured Nick Williams, as will locks Alan O'Connor and Franco van der Merwe.
Hooker John Andrew makes his first senior start, while Andy Warwick is in at loosehead prop for Callum Black, with Kyle McCall benching again.
Ian Humphreys is also among the replacements, as is Munster-bound Sam Arnold.
There is already some talk about Ulster - who play Zebre twice and Cardiff once in their run-in - not only being shoo-ins for the play-offs but also being in great shape to get a home semi-final.
But it would be wrong to automatically assume they are in line for their fourth straight win. Tomorrow could provide an important indication of what may lie ahead with the safe money being on the home side to maybe not hit their stride again but still prevail.
Ulster - S Olding, C Gilroy, D Cave, L Marshall, J Stockdale, P Jackson (capt), P Marshall; A Warwick, J Andrew, R Lutton, A O'Connor, F van der Merwe, R Diack, C Henry, R Wilson. Reps: J Murphy, K McCall, B Ross, P Browne, C Ross, R Pienaar, I Humphreys, S Arnold.
Scarlets - M Collins, G Owen, R King, H Parkes (capt), DTH van der Merwe, A Thomas, A Davies, P John, K Myhill, P Edwards, G Earle, D Bulbring, A Shingler, W Boyde, M Allen. Reps: R Elias, D Evans, R Jones, M Paulino, R Pitman, R Williams, D Jones, S Evans.
Ref - I Davies (WRU)
Ulster v Scarlets, Live, BBC2 NI, tomorrow, 2.30pm