Ulster coach Mark Anscombe

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe

ALL ROADS lead to Ravenhill on Friday night as Ulster face Leinster in the Pro 12 tournament.

And coach Mark Anscombe will be hoping his team can put last week’s single point defeat to Northampton at the Cregagh Road ground in east Belfast behind them and put on a winning performance to beat Leinster.

Prior to the Northampton game, Anscombe warned that he feared Northampton would come out like a wounded tiger after Ulster beat them in England.

But had Ruan Pienaar not missed a penalty in the last minutes of the game it would have extended Ulster’s unbeaten run in both the Pro 12 and Heineken Cup.

For Friday night’s game, Anscombe has made four changes for the game against province rivals Leinster.

Tommy Bowe and Dan Tuohy are out through injury and have been replaced by rising Ireland international star Craig Gilroy and Neil McComb.

Luke Marshall and Robbie Diack also called into the side who will play in front a packed Ravenhill crowd which the fans will hope will be a Christmas cracker.

Leinster have made eight changes following their Heineken Cup defeat by Clermont Auvergne last weekend.

Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent form a new front row with Kevin McLaughlin also among those drafted in.

Noel Reid, Andrew Conway, Brendan and Devin Toner complete the new faces for a Leinster side which shows a mixture of youth and experience.

Hooker Richardt Strauss misses out with a medial ligament injury, picked up against Clermont, which will keep him out for four weeks.

Ulster centre Luke Marshall takes over from Paddy Wallace while flanker Robbie Diack replaces Roger Wilson.

Nick Williams moves from blindside flanker to number eight is the only positional switch from the Heineken Cup defeat by Northampton.

Four players have been called up to the bench – Rob Herring, Adam Macklin, Alan O’Connor and Adam D’Arcy.

If he comes on, the game will be Alan O’Connor’s first appearance for Ulster.

The 20-year-old Dubliner joined the Ulster Academy in the summer. He played his club rugby at Skerries until he was 18, before playing for two years at UCD.

He was part of the Leinster sub-academy before joining Ulster in July.

“I have come up here to play rugby and hopefully I will get a chance on Friday night,” said O’Connor.

“It wouldn’t phase me to line out against my home province, I just want to perform at senior level – and playing against the European Champions is just about as competitive as it gets.

“My dad has tickets for the game and will be making the trip up from Dublin for the match. He is a proud Leinsterman, but I am not sure who he will be cheering for tomorrow night.”

Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa, I Henderson, N McComb, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams.

Replacements: R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, A O’Connor, R Wilson, P Marshall, P Wallace, A D’Arcy.

Leinster: N Reid; A Conway, B Macken, G D’Arcy, F McFadden; I Madigan, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, M Bent, L Cullen, D Toner, K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.

Replacements: A Dundon, H van der Merwe, J Hagan, T Denton, R Ruddock, I Boss, A Goodman, A Byrne.


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