Pollock steps up for Ulster
David Pollock will wear the number seven jersey tonight in what has been billed as Ulster’s biggest match since they won the European Cup in 1999.
With Willie Faloon still sidelined by the shoulder/neck injury he suffered in the January 2 Magners League victory over Munster at Ravenhill, Pollock has been given the nod to play in a match which will go a long way towards defining Ulster’s season.
Pollock was just 11 years of age when Harry Williams-coached Ulster lifted the biggest prize in northern hemisphere club rugby. Like the colleagues he plays alongside tonight against Edinburgh, he will have heard all the stories and seen a host of photographs of Ulster’s proudest moment.
No-one expects the class of 2010 to match that. Realistically, few expect them to make it beyond the group stage.
The clear favourites to do that are Stade Francais, currently four points clear of both Ulster and tonight’s opponents with each having two matches to go. But that is not certain at this stage and unless or until it is, Ulster and Edinburgh will live in hope and battle accordingly.
The goal the Celtic cousins share is progression to the knock-out stage or, failing that, the more probable consolation prize of qualification for the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Jamie Smith, who was just nine when Ulster won the European Cup, continues at full-back, with Darren Cave restored to midfield where he partners Paddy Wallace.
Irish and Scottish and Irish international wingers, Andrew Trimble and Simon Danielli, join young Smith in the back three, with the now-established half-back partnership of Isaac Boss and Ian Humphreys continuing in tandem.
Behind the scrum there are three replacements, two of them half-backs, Cillian Willis and Niall O’Connor. Timoci Nagusa completes the trio, with Trimble’s versatilty — equally at home on the wing on in midfield — clearly having influenced Brian McLaughlin’s bench selections.
The pack more or less picks itself at the moment, with Tom Court and BJ Botha propping Nigel Brady, Dan Tuohy and Ed O’Donoghue the locks and Stephen Ferris and captain Chris Henry packing down at blindside and No. 8 respectively.
They don’t come much bigger than this.