The seriousness with which Ulster are taking the new British-Irish Cup became obvious when the squad for Friday’s opening match was announced yesterday.
With this being a brand new competition, Ulster Ravens put down a clear marker by naming a hugely experienced 25-man panel.
With Bryan Young, Declan and Justin Fitzpatrick, Paddy McAllister, Nigel Brady, Andy Kyriacou providing the front row options, Ed O’Donoghue, Ryan Caldwell, Dan Tuohy and Neil McComb included as locks and Willie Faloon, David Pollock, Thomas Anderson and Tamaiti Horua being back row specialists, this represents a real statement of intent.
So too does the strength behind the pack, with Isaac Boss, Paul Marshall and Cillian Willis the scrum-halves, Ian Humphreys and Niall O’Connor the stand-offs, Ian Whitten, Johnny Shiels, Tommy Seymour and Chris Cochrane the runners for inclusion in the centre and on the wings and Clinton Schifcofske and Jamie Smyth the full-backs.
Coach Neil Doak said: “It’s a new competition and we’re keen to make an impression. The timing is useful because with some of the guys away on international duty, this keeps us focused.
“Sometimes training isn’t easy if there isn’t a match at the end of the week.”
The competition features 24 teams drawn from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, divided into four pools of six.
Ulster Ravens are grouped with Friday night’s opponents, Bedford, Moseley (A), London Welsh (H), Aberavon (H) and Llanelli (A) with pool matches being played in November, February and March.
The four pool winners go through to the semi-final stages in April.
The Ulster team will be named tomorrow.
Tickets for Friday's match are available from www.ulsterrugby.com, from the Ravenhill Ticket Office or via ticketline (028 9049 3222).
They can also be purchased at the gates which open from 6pm on Friday, but supporters are reminded of the savings they can make by buying in advance
ULSTER RAVENS FORWARDS: Thomas Anderson, Paddy McAllister, Nigel Brady, Ryan Caldwell, Declan Fitzpatrick, Justin Fitzpatrick, Willie Faloon, Tamaiti Horua, Andy Kyriacou, Neil McComb, David Pollock, Ed O'Donoghue, Dan Tuohy, Bryan Young ,
BACKS: Isaac Boss, Chris Cochrane, Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall, Niall O'Connor, Clinton Schifcofske, Tommy Seymour, Jonny Shiels, Jamie Smith; Ian Whitten, Cillian Willis.