Ulster welcome Edinburgh to the Kingspan stadium for the first Friday night match of the season. With Dan McFarland, the new coach at the helm, Ulster will be hoping for a more consistent season this year based on picking up match wins at home and taking that confidence into European competition.
We know that the Ulster crowd will be vocal and will be behind their team, so we need to control the game and field position, keeping that support as quiet as possible.
Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill
Last week, Ulster hosted the dangerous Scarlets side. Both teams were missing some of their international stars with notably Jacob Stockdale and Rory Best absent for the home side, and Lions star Jonathan Davies pulling out in the warm up for the visitors. This gave McFarland a chance to introduce some of the new signings to the loyal supporters. However, it was an established Ulster fan favourite that stole the show with all 15 of Ulster’s points coming from John Cooney’s boot including the last minute decisive penalty to win the match. He has been rewarded with a three year contract extension for the consistency and quality he has shown for his adopted province. On the other hand, Edinburgh lost away to the Osprey’s but were able to pick up a losing bonus point as a consolation.
With Ulster stalwarts Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble retiring at the end of last season and players like Charles Piutau moving on from the club, there is a new look to Ulster. With a different coaching set up, different playing philosophy and different players it’s hard to know what we can expect from the team this year.
Signing the experienced Aussie Henry Speight on a short term contract could be crucial with his ability to cover different positions in the backline, and to act as a mentor to younger players. Will Addison and Billy Burns are also new recruits, both came from the Premiership and both are Irish qualified. Burns will hope to bring stability to the fly half position forming a partnership with Cooney. While Addison will hope to show his attacking flair in the wide channels.
Perhaps the most exciting signing for Ulster is the Ireland flanker and former Leinster player Jordi Murphy. Murphy helped Leinster to a European and domestic double last year. Henderson describes his new team mate as a “really smart player and a great athlete”. Despite being surplus to requirements at Leinster, he has all the tools to become an Ulster great. All the above will start against Edinburgh.
Stuart McCloskey: Fresh off his man of the match performance last week, he will be filled with confidence. At 25, the inside centres best years are surely ahead of him. He has added more subtlety to his game to compliment his powerful playing style.
Marcel Coetzee: The Springbok’s Ulster career has been tarnished with knee injuries. However, if he remains fit he will feel like a new signing. Playing in the back row, he will hope to disrupt opposition ball and carry hard for the home side.
Blair Kinghorn: One of Scotland’s brightest talents, the back three player is a threat to any side. Capped by Scotland in the 2018 Six Nations aged 21, he scored Scotland’s only try of the game verses Ireland. Ulster will need to be restrict the space given to Kinghorn with his pace and eye for the try line.
Stuart McInally: As a former back rower, it was a shock for him to make the switch to hooker. The risk paid off, McInally not only captains Edinburgh but has established himself in the international side. Leading from the front with his aggressive playing style, Ulster must match his intensity or he could cause them problems.
For a range of markets on the Ulster match click here
For all Rugby Union matches and markets click through to Toals.com here