Now there’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time, to quote Obi Wan Kenobi. Winger Tom Brown will make his first appearance for Edinburgh since November 2017 as he comes in for Duhan Van Der Merwe, who will sit this one out through injury. A lot has changed for Edinburgh since then…
For starters, Ulster are no longer to be considered the problem child that they were last season and with a new coach in Dan McFarland finally in place after a wrangle with the SRU, we shouldn’t expect them to perform as badly on the field either. They gave notice of this by turning over the Scarlets last week and there’s only so much of that you can put down to a lack of John Barclay. They’ve picked a very useful looking backline with Stuart McCloskey back in action again and have former Leinster player Jordi Murphy making his debut in the back row.
As for Edinburgh, last year was the first time they had won in Belfast since 2009 so they will be hoping for a more focused performance again rather than the one that allowed Ospreys – well, George North really – to slip past them.
Cockerill keeps faith in most of the backline that played last weekend, with Brown the only straight swap. Can you believe Blair Kinghorn has 65 Edinburgh appearances already?
Up front, everyone’s favourite rib-guzzling tighthead WP Nel gets his first proper chance to try and usurp the grip that Simon Berghan has had on the Edinburgh and Scotland tighthead shirt since November last year. The impressive Murray McCallum is hot on both their heels but sits the bench to begin with.
The key change in the pack is the swap of Jamie Ritchie (making his 50th appearance) for Hamish Watson (on paternity leave) at openside, with Luke Hamilton given a chance to improve on a patchy start last weekend and Ritchie getting a chance to prove he’s a legitimate successor to the likes of Watson, Hardie and Barclay and not just an Edinburgh utility back row.
Once again it’s a good looking bench although perhaps a little light in the backs if the game becomes a tussle.
Ulster: W Addison; C Gilroy, D Cave, S McCloskey, H Speight; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring (captain), R Kane , K Treadwell, I Henderson, M Coetzee, J Murphy, N Timoney;
Replacements: A McBurney, E O’Sullivan, W Herbst, A O’Connor, S Reidy, D Shanahan, A Curtis, A Kernohan.
Edinburgh: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Dougie Fife, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Matt Scott, 11. Tom Brown, 10. Simon Hickey, 9. Henry Pyrgos; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. Stuart McInally (capt), 3. WP Nel, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Luke Hamilton, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Bill Mata.
Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Allan Dell, 18. Murray McCallum, 19. Fraser McKenzie, 20. Luke Crosbie, 21. Sean Kennedy, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. James Johnstone.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)
At The Kingspan Stadium in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday 7 September (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports.