Doak and Bell favourites to assume Ulster reins after Anscombe exit
Ulster will seek to tie down the men they view as long-term successors to Mark Anscombe by concluding contract talks with assistant coaches Neil Doak and Jonny Bell as soon as possible.
Anscombe declared last week that he would like to see his assistants continue in the role and his paymasters seem to be of a similar mind, although Doak confirmed this week there had been no movement on the issue.
"We've been spoken to and we're now just having a look at that at the moment," was all Doak would say ahead of tonight's Ravenhill Pro12 clash against Scarlets, which will have a 7.15 kick-off, 10 minutes later than originally scheduled.
However, with the IRFU keen to develop indigenous coaches, it seems certain Doak will be the primary candidate to succeed Kiwi Anscombe. Ulster's players have regularly endorsed Doak's abilities in recent times and Paddy Jackson, for one, is someone who has benefited enormously from the 41-year-old Antrim man's input.
"He's come on massively as a player," says Doak of the out-half given a prime opportunity to build upon his try-scoring effort against Wales last weekend.
As expected, this game has come too soon for Tommy Bowe, with national coach Joe Schmidt confirming that the final two championship games against Italy and France are revised targets for the Monaghan wing's comeback.
However, Iain Henderson and Luke Marshall have both been released from international squad involvement and feature in a starting line-up that sees a total of seven changes from the side that defeated the Ospreys last week.
Marshall comes in at No 12, with Darren Cave pushing across to outside centre, while Jared Payne is named at full-back.
Henderson replaces Dan Tuohy as skipper Johann Muller's engine-room partner, while Roger Wilson is at blindside with Nick Williams coming in at No 8.
Scarlets boss Easterby has made only two changes to his winning side against Treviso; tighthead prop Samson Lee comes into the starting line-up for Jacobie Adriaanse, while second-row Johan Snyman supplants Richard Kelly.
Ulster have lost just once in Belfast in 12 months, while Scarlets' 41-33 victory in Treviso ended a four-game Pro 12 losing run. But the Welsh side did win 17-9 when Ulster visited Parc y Scarlets earlier this season.
Ulster – J Payne; C Gilroy, D Cave, L Marshall, M Allen; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller, capt, I Henderson, R Wilson, S Doyle, N Williams. Reps: N Annett, C Black, R Lutton, R Diack, M McComish, P Marshall, R Scholes, R Andrew.
Scarlets – J Williams; K Phillips, G Maule, A Warren, F Climo; A Thomas, G Davies; P John, K Myhill, S Lee, G Earle, J Snyman, J Turnbull, R McCusker capt, John Barclay. Reps: E Phillips, R Evans, J Adriaanse, R Kelly, S Timani, R Williams, O Barkley, G Owen.
Ref – L Hodges (WRU)
ULSTER V SCARLETS, LIVE, BBC 2, 7.15