Fly-half Billy Burns has come through HIA protocols and will take his place alongside 11 internationals for Ulster’s Pool 4 trip to Scarlets this evening.
Ulster will have all those men in green who were involved in Ireland’s successful autumn series back in harness with a fit-again Will Addison named in the midfield alongside Stuart McCloskey, with Jacob Stockdale and Wallaby Henry Speight on the wings.
Rory Best returns as skipper while Iain Henderson is at lock. Jordi Murphy will operate at openside flanker alongside Sean Reidy and Springbok number eight Marcell Coetzee.
After his man-of-the-match performance in the win over Cardiff last week, scrum-half John Cooney is again partnered by Burns, who hopes that the necessary hard work up front will allow Ulster to get their quick, fast game into operation.
“The last time we played them, our discipline let us down massively and our ball retention,” said Burns.
“If you give a side like Scarlets the ball you are always going to struggle. They are a great attacking team with threats all over the park.
“If you keep giving them access into your half it is going to be tough evening. That is definitely a part of the game we need to improve on, and then implementing the gameplan that we have. We did not really get a chance to do that last time we were over there. If we go to a place like Scarlets and assert ourselves on the game, then we feel we really do have a chance,” said Burns on Ulster’s 29-12 PRO14 drubbing two weeks ago in Llanelli.
“I think any game now is crucial whether in Europe or the PRO14. But these games are the ones that put you in the position to accelerate on from. For us, it is about making sure we go over there and play the game we want to play and hopefully get a positive result. Then the group will take care of itself. Teams are so competitive now, and games are lost and won in little moments. It’s just making sure you are not the team who switch off when those little moments happen.”
Scarlets, meanwhile, have named front-row Samson Lee alongside returning skipper Ken Owens, despite being earlier ruled out with injury. Scrum-half Gareth Davies is also back with Kieron Fonotia keeping his place alongside Jonathan Davies in the midfield.
Scarlets have lost their opening two games of the campaign, the same record they had going into round three last season, after which they won five games in a row to reach the semi-final.