Neil Doak rings changes for Ulster’s trip to Glasgow

Ulster head coach Neil Doak has decided that though a win in Glasgow this afternoon is both possible and rich with reward, he’ll put the Top Four play-offs at the top of his list of priorities.

Neil Doak rings changes for Ulster’s trip to Glasgow

And, true to his midweek signal that he would rotate his squad, he’s made no fewer than 12 changes in personnel to the team completing the ‘regular’ Pro 12 season at Scotstoun.

In a game where only a bonus point win could potentially earn a home semi-final newt weekend, he’s made sure made many of his frontline choices are rested.

Some of them will watch from the bench and may play a role, but Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Tommy Bowe, Ruan Pienaar, Roger Wilson and Paddy Jackson — internationals all — are clearly been given every chance to recharge batteries as Ulster targets its first trophy since 2006.

Full-back Louise Ludik, lock Franco van der Merwe and flanker Chris Henry, who takes over the captaincy from Best, are the only survivors from last Saturday’s dramatic draw at home to Munster.

“It’s great that we have achieved our first aim, a place in the play-offs,” said Doak, “and the coaches and the players are focussed on building on the good form that brought us to this position, and with the final at our own Kingspan Stadium in a fortnight we have a marvellous incentive.”

But Doak still believes that his squad is deep enough in quality to crack the Warriors’ unbeaten November 2013.

“We go into every match with the intention of winning, and though Glasgow is a fine side which has set the pace for most of the year we can only control what we do, and we believe we can take full points just as we did earlier in the season in Belfast.”

Stuart McCloskey, as was expected, comes in at centre where he’ll be partnered by debutant Sam Arnold, just voted the Ulster Academy’s Player of the Year, while the gifted Rory Scholes and the departing Michael Allen fill the slots on the wings.

Ian Humphreys and Paul Marshall renew the half-back partnership which operated for much of the early part of the season, while up front Ricky Lutton makes his first appearance of the year at prop after injury, with hooker Rob Herring and Andrew Warwick completing the front row.

Lewis Stevenson packs down in the second-row with van der Merwe, while Clive Ross and Robbie Diack join Henry in the breakaway unit.

Glasgow has also ‘tinkered’, but Gregor Townsend would not seem to have weakened his line-up with the inclusion of Scottish three-quarter Sean Lamont, the versatile Niko Matawalu switching to scrum-half to partner Finn Russell.

Both coaches are aware the coveted immediate prize of a home semi-final is dependant to a great extent on the results in Munster and Connacht, and Doak and Townsend will possibly use their replacements in response to news elsewher.

Glasgow Warriors:

Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Richie Vernon, Peter Horne, Sean Lamont; Finn Russell, Niko Matawalu; Ryan Grant, Dougie Hall, Rossouw de Klerk; Jonny Gray, Al Kellock (Captain), Josh Strauss, Chris Fusaro, Adam Ashe.

Ulster:

Louis Ludik; Rory Scholes, Sam Arnold, Stuart McCloskey, Michael Allen; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall, Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton; Lewis Stevenson; Franco van der Merwe; Clive Ross, Chris Henry (captain), Robbie Diack.

Referee:

Ian Davies (WRU)

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