herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Pack must front up so Piutau can shine

Exeter will have their hands full with Charles Piutau
Exeter will have their hands full with Charles Piutau

Charles Piutau will make his Champions Cup entrance to the sound of his name being chanted around Ravenhill.

The All Black has electrified the province with his dazzling stepping, strength and offloading game.

Craig Gilroy is the unfortunate one to make way as director of rugby Les Kiss goes with an otherwise unchanged 15.

Thankfully, Ruan Pienaar has overcome a knee injury to double up with Paddy Jackson in what is, once again, a superb back division.

This is more a reflection of the scant resources in some areas than any maintained faith.

It begins and ends with an altered attitude or, more likely, capacity to counter Exeter's big carriers which includes number eight Thomas Waldrom, the Premiership's highest try scorer last season.

The front eight have to front up to what Exeter bring to the contest.

Really, Iain Henderson stood out in Bordeaux where the necessary assistance was not on hand to turn back the tide of French runners in the second-half.

For the Chiefs, Gareth Steenson will be licking his lips at the prospect of showing his home province the mistake they made when he was allowed to leave.

Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble (captain), L Marshall, S Olding, C Piutau; P Jackson, R Pienaar; K McCall, R Best, R Ah You; P Browne, F van der Merwe; I Henderson, S Reidy, R Wilson.

Exeter: L Turner; O Woodburn, I Whitten, H Slade, J Short; G Steenson, D Lewis; M Low, J Yeandle, H Williams; M Lees, G Parling; K Horstmann, J Salvi, T Waldrom.

Verdict: Ulster.

ulster v exeter, tonight, ko 7.15 (bt Sport 2)

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