RaboDirect Pro12: Ulster host Dragons, Edinburgh entertain Ospreys
Last Updated: 27/02/14 6:33pm
Tommy Bowe: Returns for Ulster
In-form Ulster host the Dragons in the RaboDirect Pro12 at Ravenhill on Friday, while Edinburgh entertain the Ospreys.
Ulster's only defeat in any competition since early November was 6-19 to Leinster at the RDS in the Pro12 on 28th December.
Tommy Bowe starts the hosts having recovered from the leg injury that has kept him out since November. He starts on the right wing and is joined in the back three by Jared Payne, who is selected at full-back and by Ireland Under 20's winger Rory Scholes, who makes his first senior start for the side.
Luke Marshall and Darren Cave maintain their partnership in midfield. Paddy Jackson has been released by Ireland and starts at fly-half, with Ruan Pienaar moving back to his more familiar position at scrum-half.
Up front Callum Black starts at loosehead, with Tom Court named on the bench. Rob Herring continues at hooker with Ricky Lutton keeping his place at tighthead.
Johann Muller captains Ulster from the second row where he is joined by Iain Henderson, who has also been released from international duty. Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle and Roger Wilson all start in an unchanged back row.
Stuart McCloskey, the 21-year-old centre who is a member of the Ulster Academy, is named as a replacement and will make his first senior appearance if called upon.
Meanwhile, Bruce Douglas, who is on loan from Bristol RFC, will make his first start for the Dragons since joining the squad at the beginning of the month.
There are a total of four changes to the winning team that took on Glasgow as Welsh Sevens star Rhys Jones gets his third start of the season at full-back. He is joined in the back three by wingers Matthew Pewtner and Ross Wardle.
The centre pairing of Pat Leach and Ashley Smith makes another appearance with Smith also taking on the role of captain, in Andrew Coombs' absence. At number 10 Steffan Jones takes on kicking duties as fly-half Jason Tovey is moved to the bench and scrum-half Richie Rees retains his place from last weekend.
The front-row has one change to it as Douglas comes into the starting XV alongside Owen Evans and T. Rhys Thomas. The second-row has taken on a younger form as Matthew Screech steps up in Coombs' absence and Cory Hill retains his shirt. The back-row then remains unchanged.
There are six changes to the bench as Ieuan Jones and Wayne Evans are joined by Nathan Williams, Hugh Gustafson, Duncan Bell, Rob Sidoli, Tovey and Jack Dixon, who has returned from injury.
In Friday's other game, Edinburgh Rugby host the Ospreys aiming to halt a three-match losing run in the PRO12.
Fly-half Harry Leonard returns to the starting line-up as one of four changes for the hosts.
The 21-year-old, and centre Sam Beard, have been promoted from the bench and replace the injured Tom Brown (thigh) and Nick De Luca (head knock), with Carl Bezuidenhout and Jack Cuthbert moving to full-back and wing to accommodate Leonard's inclusion.
The changes are completed by returning Scotland internationals Ross Ford (hooker) and Geoff Cross (prop) who start in place of James Hilterbrand and Willem Nel.
They will be joined on the bench by scrum-half Sean Kennedy, who has returned from his loan spell at London Irish to replace the injured Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (shoulder), while Ben Atiga and Joaquin Dominguez take the places vacated by Leonard and Beard.
For the Ospreys, boss Steve Tandy says his side were left frustrated by last week's defeat to Munster and he has targeted no more slip-ups if they are to make the play-offs.
He said: "The play-offs are still very much on for us but we don't have any margin for error now, we have to get it right on and off the pitch for each of our remaining fixtures.
"Our record in this league is something we are very proud of, and whatever the future holds for us we want to be in the mix come May."