O’Donoghue out as Ulster make changes

IRELAND A lock Ed O’Donoghue drops to the bench for the first time this season as Ulster coach Matt Williams makes four changes for the Magners League clash against the Glasgow Warriors at Firhill this evening.

Australian-born O’Donoghue has started every one of Ulster’s games this season but sits this one out with Italian Carlo del Favo coming into the second row. Darren Cave, Chris Henry and Isaac Boss also drop down the replacements with Ian Whitten, Robbie Diack and Paul Marshall starting.

Williams is now determined to put a fairly below-average season behind them and improve a dismal away record which he hints at being the fault of Scottish referees.

“There is no excuse for losing some of the away games. We have struggled under Scottish referees and have lost all nine games with them since I’ve been here,” said Williams.

“We have a problem with that and we get decisions we don’t agree with but you can hide behind those, you have got to get out and front up and forget about it. I keep saying, the longer a winning streak or losing streak goes on the closer you are to winning or losing either side of it, that’s not really a concern.

“I think there was only once this year at the Ospreys where our effort hasn’t been right, I’ve questioned our strategic decision making many times but rarely have I questioned the effort.”

Ulster will need to step up a grade tonight against an unchanged Glasgow side who feature former Ulster lock Tim Barker. Glasgow coach Sean Linen is looking for a high finish to a good campaign particularly after a six-try trouncing of the Scarlets a fortnight ago.

“It was a fantastic result for us,” he said. “We scored some great tries, but we can’t afford to dwell on that too much.

“We’ve got four big games left this season, two of which are at home, so it’s vital that the crowd play their part and really get behind the players. Our target this season was to improve on our fifth place finish last year and we’re so close to achieving that.”

Meanwhile, Keith Matthews is a casualty of Connacht’s European loss to Northampton last weekend as they head to Limerick tomorrow.

The centre has been ruled out of action, and although included in Connacht’s 26 man squad, there are also question marks over flanker Ray Ofisa and hooker Sean Cronin.

As a result coach Michael Bradley will not name his side until lunchtime today to give players sufficient time to recover from their Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat in England.

With Connacht facing their two main rivals for a Heineken Cup spot, Dragons and Ulster, in the next two outings, Bradley might also be tempted to rest a couple of front-line players. As a result he has included young David Gannon who can play in either the second or back rows. Daniel Riordan and Aidan Wynne have also been included in the 26-man squad.

GLASGOW TEAM: C Gregor; L Fa’atau, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans; R Jackson, Mark McMillan; K Tkachuk, D Hall, M Low, T Barker, A Kellock (capt), J Eddie, J Barclay, K Brown.

Replacements: F Thomson, E Kalman, D Turner, C Forrester, D Parks, A Henderson, B Stortoni.

ULSTER TEAM: C Schifcofske; S Danielli, I Whitten, P Wallace, A Trimble; N O’Connor, P Marshall; B Young, R Best (capt), B Botha, C Del Fava, R Caldwell, S Ferris, D Pollock, R Diack.

Replacements: N Brady, D Roach, M McCullough, C Henry, I Boss, D Cave, I Humphreys.

CONNACHT SQUAD: L Bibo, A Browne, F Carr, S Cronin, M Deane, G Duffy, A Dunne, A Farley, A Flavin, D Gannon, I Keatley, R Loughney, B McGovern, J Muldoon, F Murphy, T Nathan, D Nolan, J O’Connor, R Ofisa, C O’Loughlin, C Rigney, D Riordan, M Swift, N Ta’auso, B Wilkinson, A Wynne.

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