Ulster head to Llanelli in rude health for their RaboDirect top-of-the-table clash with the Scarlets tomorrow (Parc y Scarlets, 4pm).
Skipper Johann Muller returns to lead the side while Ireland squad members Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble, Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson, Darren Cave and Luke Marshall are in the starting line-up.
A fit-again Rory Best and fellow Ireland star Tommy Bowe are named on the bench alongside two other internationals in Dan Tuohy and Tom Court. Callum Black and All Black John Afoa come into the front-row alongside Irish-qualified South African-born hooker Rob Herring. Neil McComb retains his place in the second row beside his skipper, with Henderson, Roger Wilson and Robbie Diack in the back-row.
The Ulster backs, however, have proven to be the key to this season’s 100 per cent record to date, and they will have big role to play when they face second-placed Scarlets. It sees Darren Cave link up again with his Ireland ‘A’ colleague Luke Marshsall with the duo showing how a midfield partnership should work in that Thomond Park outing.
Cave in particular is happy to be back in the white jersey following the training camp and believes that he has made a little bit more progress towards his international aspirations.
“I didn’t really do much during November, so I’m really happy to be ready to play again. To get my opportunity to play during that Fiji game was good and I felt it went very well for me. While the opposition was not great, there was not a lot more I could have done.
“It’s great to come back to Ulster who are in a good place at present. Mind you the Ulster backline is as hard to get into as the Ireland backline. But to come back and play in this team is incredibly exciting and we have a serious chance to win some silverware.
“There will be plenty of opportunity now to showcase my game with Scarlets tomorrow, then back-to-back games against Northampton in the Heineken Cup coming up.
ULSTER: P Nelson; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller (c), N McComb, I Henderson, R Diack, R Wilson.
Replacements: R Best, T Court, R Lutton, D Tuohy, M McComish, M Heaney, N O’Connor, T Bowe.
SCARLETS: D Newton, K Phillips, G Maule, G Owen, A Fenby, A Thomas, G Davies, P John, E Phillips, J Adriaanse, J Snyman, R Kelly, G Earle, J Edwards (c), K Murphy.
Replacements: K Myhill, S Hopkins, 1D Manu, T Vallejos, C Price, A Davies, A Warren, N Reynolds.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved