Iain Henderson and Nick Williams make welcome return
Published 11/09/2013 | 01:30
Nick Williams and Iain Henderson have both returned to Mark Anscombe's extended squad as Ulster go in search of their first PRO12 win in Friday night's clash with Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.05pm).
Anscombe will be looking for both players to make a significant impact – whether from a starting position or in being sprung from the bench – in the wake of Ulster's surprise defeat at the Dragons last Friday night where the visitors produced a desperately disappointing display.
The hugely physical Williams was an absentee from the 15-8 defeat at Rodney Parade as family matters saw him return to New Zealand, though he did get some action under his belt in Ulster's opening pre-season friendly against Leinster.
As for Henderson, this will be his first game-time this season since being part of Ireland's tour to North America during the summer. Elsewhere, Anscombe has included Michael Allen and Ricky Andrew in the 12 backs named in the squad while, up front, Robbie Diack and Lewis Stevenson drop out for the returning Williams and Henderson.
Ulster, last season's beaten PRO12 finalists, know there will have to be a massive improvement on what they produced at Newport, last Friday, if they are to win their first competitive game at the new-look Ravenhill and, rather more importantly, avoid the prospect of shipping two consecutive league defeats at the start of this campaign.
Glasgow Warriors – who were beaten semi-finalists in last year's league – will come to Ravenhill buoyed by an opening win over Cardiff Blues and Anscombe knows that his opposite number Gregor Townsend has assembled a quality side which will ask serious questions of Ulster's accuracy and morale.
"In terms of positives (from the Dragons defeat), to be honest I can't think of too many. It was a bad day and sometimes that happens," Anscombe said yesterday when addressing what had unfolded in Wales.
"If it happens again, over the next two or three weeks, then it is a concern," he added before looking to what is being done prior to the Glasgow game.
"We've had to idenfity what caused the problems and all that needs putting to bed," he added.
"But the guys have trained well this week and we've got to address it come Friday night."
Though Ulster clearly suffered a poor return from Paddy Jackson's place-kicking at the Dragons – he slotted one from four efforts – most areas of their game ended up malfunctioning.
Some of their lineout work slipped well below the expected standard while they also struggled at the scrum and breakdown in the second half where the Italian referee's puzzling interpretations caused them a great deal of damage.
"We're not utilising our set-piece well enough," Anscombe stated.
Though the game-plan for this Friday may not be radically different, the performance will certainly have to be. On the injury front, Paddy McCallister is reported to be getting closer to returning. However, John Afoa has had to return to New Zealand due to family bereavement.