RaboDirect Pro12: Barker back as coach’s only change
Tim Barker in, Lewis Stevenson on the bench for tomorrow afternoon’s Stadio Zaffanella RaboDirect Pro12 joust with Aironi (2pm).
That is the only change to the team which took to the pitch and beat Glasgow a week ago, although with Stevenson on the bench Neil McComb is omitted from the matchday 23.
There are other changes among the replacements, too.
Prop Declan Fitzpatrick — now recovered from the concussion he suffered in pre-season — is on the bench, as is centre Luke Marshall whose recall sees promising youngster Peter Henderson step down on this occasion.
Hooker Andi Kyriacou starts, his wife having given birth earlier in the week.
Coach McLaughlin’s vote of confidence comes as no surprise.
He was more than happy with Ulster’s scrum and line-out against Glasgow last Friday night and with Aironi — true to the Italian norm — hugely dependent on set piece possession he will look to his forwards to counter the threat posed by their opposite numbers in what could very well turn out to be a case of trench warfare.
Behind the pack Ian Whitten’s display last week has earned him another run at number 11. Normally a centre, he more than acquitted himself out wide, playing a major part in Ulster’s opening try against the Scots.
He joins Adam D’Arcy and Craig Gilroy in the back three and with centre pairing Nevin Spence and Darren Cave continuing outside half-backs Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys, Ulster should have the skill and pace to outwit their Aironi counterparts.
The weather is expected to be hot and sultry with a mid-afternoon temperature of 30C — and the possibility of thunder — forecast.
But upbeat skipper Chris Henry said: “We’ve done well in dry weather in the past. We enjoy throwing the ball about.”