McCall glad to have Irish five in squad
Having watched his hugely inexperienced side struggle with the demands of two Magners League trips on the bounce, Ulster coach Mark McCall welcomes back five of Ireland's World Cup squad for the province's third assignment on the road, against Llanelli Scarlets at Stradey Park on Friday night.
Bryan Young, Paddy Wallace, Isaac Boss, Rory Best and Stephen Ferris are named in a 23-man squad for Friday night's trip to west Wales and all are expected to start, no doubt desperate for action having all, apart from Best, played little or no part in Ireland's humiliating pool stage exit.
The problem for McCall, whose side currently prop up the table having suffered successive reverses at Edinburgh and the Dragons, is that the quintet, apart from Best, have played little or no rugby since the end of last season, never mind in France.
Only Rory Best made any of Ireland's starting XVs in France. Wallace only appeared for 30 seconds against Namibia and Young and Ferris didn't feature at all.
Of the other two Ireland squad members, Andrew Trimble is still recovering from a finger injury sustained in France and Neil Best given another week off by McCall.
Scotland centre Rob Dewey only arrives in Belfast today following Frank Hadden's side's quarter-final exit from the World Cup to Argentina on Sunday and was not considered for selection.
Ireland Under-20 players David Pollock, Darren Cave and Kieran Hallett drop out of the squad.
But even with most of the Ireland contingent back, the prospect of a trip to Stradey Park is a daunting one for Ulster despite the fact that only winger Dafydd James returns to Scarlets side from the Wales squad, with prop Iestyn Thomas and No 8 Nathan Thomas also returning to the fray.
" When we lost to Gloucester at home in the pre-season friendly, we got a really good performance that night and we did so against the Ospreys," said McCall.
"But against Edinburgh and the Dragons, we dipped well below what we expect and we have to deliver a much better performance on Friday night.
"We had 27 turnovers against Edinburgh and 21 turnovers against the Dragons which put pressure on ourselves and relieved pressure on our opponents.
"Our line-out is delivering us as good ball as we have had in years, but we haven't used it terribly well and because of that we are not generating any momentum or putting pressure on opposition."
Given Simon Best's unavailability as he recovers from his cardiac problem that resulted in the health scare that forced the 29-year-old to withdraw from Ireland's World Cup campaign, McCall confirmed he was currently in the hunt for a replacement tighthead, most likely an on-loan deal, before the Heineken Cup cut-off date of October 18.
Scarlets: Morgan Stoddart, Dafydd James, Regan King, Gavin Evans, Matthew Watkins, Rhys Priestland Liam Davies; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Vernon Cooper, Adam Eustace, James Bater (capt), Johnathan Edwards, Nathan Thomas.
Replacements: Bruce Douglas, James Hayter, Lou Reed, Dafydd Jones, Gavin Cattle, Ceiron Thomas, Nathan Brew.
Ulster (from): Backs: Paul Marshall; Isaac Boss; Niall O'Connor; Paddy Wallace; Tommy Bowe; Seamus Mallon; Simon Danielli; Mark McCrea; Mark Bartholomeusz, Bryn Cunningham.
Forwards: Bryan Young, Justin Fitzpatrick, Nigel Brady, Rory Best, Matt Miles, Tom Court, Justin Harrison, Tim Barker, Carlo del Fava, Matt McCullough, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson, Stephen Ferris.