Latham is finally set for Ravenhill
Confirmation that Australian legend Chris Latham will start for the Worcester Warriors against Ulster tonight has added extra spice to the Ravenhill clash (kick-off 7.30pm).
Latham, who scored 40 tries in 78 caps for Australia, was of course linked with a move to Ulster last September when he first declared an interest in leaving the Queensland Reds.
The 32-year-old eventually signed for the Warriors and, having shaken off a shoulder injury, will make his bow at the venue which could have been his new home.
Ulster coach Williams, despite hailing from New South Wales, is full of admiration for the former Wallaby.
“If you look at what Worcester are going to put out, they will be a very good side,” said Williams. “Chris Latham is going to play for them and it is a great opportunity for everyone in Ulster to see a great player. If there is no other reason to come to Ravenhill, come to see Chris because he is one of the great full-backs in world rugby.”
Of much more concern to Williams however is how his final pick ahead of the start of the Magners League campaign gels. The Ulster coach has again made sweeping changes, with 11 new faces from the side that defeated Queensland Reds 24-0 on Friday night.
Significantly, the front row sees Tom Court and Bryan Young swap positions, with Court starting at loose head prop and Young at tighthead. Rory Best drops out of the squad and is replaced by Nigel Brady at hooker.
In the second row, Italian lock Carlo Del Fava will start alongside Ryan Caldwell with both locks fit again after injury setbacks while a new-look back row sees Matt McCullough, Kieron Dawson and Chris Henry all starting, with Thomas Anderson and Robbie Diack dropping to an extended bench and David Pollock rested.
The backline is transformed with only Paddy Wallace and Timoci Nagusa surviving from the Reds game. Paul Marshall and Wallace form the half back partnership with Mark McCrea and Nagusa on either wing. Paul Steinmetz, is named alongside Ireland star Andrew Trimble in the midfield.
Williams has also named 11 players on the bench, following an agreement with Worcester coach Mike Ruddock, which is loaded with the province’s emerging band of young guns including Willie Faloon, Thomas Anderson, Ian Whitten and Chris Cochrane.
Ian Humphreys can also expect to
play a half having missed the second period against the Reds with a shoulder injury.
“They are like us, coming to the end of our pre season and gearing up for the start of a big league campaign,” said Williams.
“It will be another step up, but at the same time, what has been good for us is that we are seeing young players coming through who have shown us they are ready for the next step.
"I have been really encouraged by the players over the last few months in particular for the two pre-season games, their commitment and attitude has been exceptional and the Worcester game will be a good test for some players who haven't featured against either Bath or the Reds.
“We play Scarlets next Friday at Ravenhill and start what we hope will be a successful league campaign, so obviously a win against Worcester would be a great boost for the players.”
Tickets for the fixture are still available online at www.ulsterrugby.com, over the counter at Ravenhill and will be available on the gate on Wednesday night.
Ulster: B Cunningham; T Nagusa, A Trimble, P Steinmetz, M McCrea; P Wallace, P Marshall; T Court; N Brady, B Young, C Del Fava, R Caldwell, M McCullough K Dawson(Capt), C Henry
Replacements: S Philpott, J Fitzpatrick, R Diack, W Faloon, C Willis, T Anderson, I Humphreys, I Whitten, C Cochrane, N O'Connor, R Dewey