Trimble out to catch Schmidt's eye as Ulster aim to extend unbeaten run
ANDREW TRIMBLE will seek to prove to the Ireland coaching staff that he deserves a place in the squad for the November Internationals when he lines up for Ulster against Scarlets in Llanelli this evening (6.30).
Trimble was only an afterthought for coach Joe Schmidt this week as he was a belated call-up to the training camp as cover for Keith Earls, as was back-row Roger Wilson.
Both players have been released to Ulster for tonight's game, and with Earls still recovering from tendonitis of his patella, a strong performance by Trimble here might see him recalled to the Ireland match-day squad for the Samoa clash.
That Trimble – who has 50 international caps – was omitted from the original squad was a surprise, but he has impressed this past week. He starts this game on the right wing of an Ulster side that will be captained by Jared Payne from the full-back berth.
This will be Payne's second time to lead Ulster. Coach Mark Anscombe has made eight changes from the side which recorded a bonus-point win over Cardiff Blues last week.
Stuart Olding has been ruled out after suffering concussion last weekend, so Ruan Pienaar will slot in as No 10, with Paul Marshall coming in as his half-back partner.
The in-form Darren Cave and Chris Farrell form a new midfield partnership, while Michael Allen returns to the left wing.
There is also a new second-row pairing in Lewis Stevenson and Neil McComb, while Wilson moves to openside to accommodate Nick Williams at the base of the scrum.
Scarlets have seven of their squad on international duty with Wales and have made six changes to the starting line-up from last weekend's draw with Zebre.
Gareth Owen returns at full-back and in front of him is a new centre partnership with Gareth Maule and Adam Warren joining up, while Jordan Williams returns to the wing. Up front, Kirby Myhill starts at hooker with Samson Lee returning to front-row after a two-week suspension, while Josh Turnbull moves to openside with Sione Timani at No 8.
Head coach Simon Easterby is hoping that players parachuted into the team will seize their chance. "The next few weeks hands important opportunities to many of our wider squad players who are energised and eager to prove themselves," he said.
Ulster have won their last six games – their only loss in their last six matches with Welsh regions was to the Dragons at Rodney Parade in the opening round of the Pro12 this season.
The Irish side are understrength also with eight players denied to them because of international commitments. They are also without Johann Muller for the foreseeable future after he suffered a calf injury.
They will do well to keep their unbeaten run intact tonight and assistant coach Jonathan Bell has challenged the players to "get on with it".
"We have got strength in depth at present with guys that can step in and be up to the mark," he said.
"You also have to remember that every team we will be playing against will have the same difficulties, some obviously more than others. Years ago it was Leinster who suffered more than most, now we are losing more players to national camps. You've just got to get on with it.
"We are happy with what has gone by so far this season. We had a slow start, but we have been building slowly and surely."
Scarlets – G Owen; N Reynolds, G Maule, A Warren, J Williams; S Shingler, G Davies; P John (capt), K Myhill, S Lee, J Ball, G Earle, A Shingler, J Turnbull, S Timani. Reps: D Harris, R Evans, J Adriaanse, J Synman, J Barclay, A Davies, A Thomas, C Knight.
Ulster – J Payne (capt); A Trimble, D Cave, C Farrell, M Allen; R Pienaar, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, J Afoa, L Stevenson, N McComb, R Diack, R Wilson, N Williams. Reps: N Annett, K McCall, R Lutton, M McComish, S Doyle, J McKinney, R Andrew, D McIlwaine.
Scarlets v Ulster,
Live, S4C & BBC 2 Northern Irl, 6.30