Thursday 27 October 2016

Jackson ready to call the tune at rocking Kingspan

You can just see Paul O'Connell winding his players up like an alarm clock until they are set to go off at The Kingspan Stadium today (KO 2.40, Sky Sports 1).

The scene has been set. Ulster crushed Leinster up in their playpen. Now, it is the turn of the other province that had dominated for so long.

Is it time for the establishment of a new order?

Munster coach Anthony Foley has reintroduced Dennis Hurley at inside centre in place of Rory Scannell with Northampton-bound JJ Hanrahan sitting idly by.

The inclusion of O'Connell with Donnacha Ryan at second row and hooker Eusebio Guinazu in the front grid completes the set of three changes.

The battle of the back row will be instructive as captain Peter O'Mahony, in-form Tommy O'Donnell and soon-to-be Ireland qualified CJ Stander look to set a physical benchmark.

Ulster aren't too shy in that area, despite the absence of impact from Nick Williams, as number eight Roger Wilson breaks the province's cap-record on his 132nd appearance, one ahead of Paddy Wallace.

The impressive Iain Henderson and Chris Henry are working well in tandem in behind the nous of lineout leader Franco van der Merwe and the sound lockdown scrummaging of Rory Best, Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst.

The maturity of Paddy Jackson, coming out of the shadow of Ruan Pienaar, could just make the vital difference.

Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, J Payne, D Cave, P Nelson; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best (capt), W Herbst, D Tuohy, F Van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Henry, R Wilson.

Munster: F Jones; K Earls, A Smith, D Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, E Guinazu, S Archer, D Ryan, P O'Connell, P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Verdict: Ulster


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