McLaughlin rings New Year changes to Ulster side
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has wielded the axe after Monday's disappointing defeat by Leinster for tonight's trip to Magners League leaders Munster at Thomond Park (7.30pm, BBC2).
South African trio Ruan Pienaar, Johann Muller and Pedrie Wannenburg are omitted from the match day squad while BJ Botha drops to the bench.
Niall O'Connor, Paddy McAllister, Adam D'Arcy and Dan Tuohy are among the other causalities from the 30-13 defeat at Ravenhill which saw Ulster slide to sixth in the Mangers League.
McLaughlin is hoping for a reaction from a much changed squad in Limerick and admits the performance against Leinster wasn't good enough.
“The game against Leinster was a huge disappointment to us all, we prepared well for it but on the day Leinster were just more hungry than we were,” stated McLaughlin
“I think, mentally, we were just off the money, we had just come through four really tough games where we had four very good performances and four very good victories
“We've talked about our consistency, we've talked about what went wrong mentally and physically and we have to make sure we put it to bed now and we're looking forward to the Munster game.”
Last season when Ulster beat Bath at the Rec they slumped to five defeats and a draw in their next six games but the coach is adamant that won't be allowed to happen this time around.
“Coming away this year, we know we have the European Cup in our own hands as far as the group is concerned and we were looking forward to getting back into Magners league contention but unfortunately on the day against Leinster, it just didn't happen for us.
“You get days like that, you try to minimise them and try to make sure they don't happen too often but it was one of those days.”
Ulster had a famous five try bonus point win at Thomond Park two years ago and McLaughlin is hoping to install that spirit into the current crop of players.
“We have to go down there with confidence that we had two years ago we've got to go with no fear and play to our potential,” he stressed.
Hooker Rory Best is back to captain the side in a pack that shows seven changes from the Leinster defeat.
Best has been sidelined since fracturing his cheeckbone against New Zealand in November.
Declan Fitzpartick replaces Botha at tight head prop and Bryan Young completes the front row.
It's all change in the second row with Tim Barker and Ryan Caldwell starting and Neil McComb providing cover from the bench.
Robbie Diack is the only forward to keep his place from Monday he's joined in the back row by TJ Anderson while Willie Faloon is promoted from the bench.
Paul Marshall and Paddy Wallace combine at half back, winger Simon Danielli is another who survives the cull from the Leinster game. Tommy Seymour is on the other wing with his Ballymena club colleague Jamie Smith at full back.
Ian Whitten retains his place in the centre and is partnered by Luke Marshall.
Irish prop Tom Court is on the bench as is young outhalf Paddy Jackson.
Munster include Doug Howlett, Keith Earls and Peter Stringer in their starting line up while hooker Jerry Flannery is on the bench.
Paul Warwick takes over at out-half in place of Ronan O'Gara who is rested by national dictat and Donnacha Ryan swops the number four for the number six jersey in place of injured Alan Quinlan.
MUNSTER: Scott Deasy; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Sam Tuitupou, Denis Hurley; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, Peter Borlase; Ian Nagle, Mick O'Driscoll; Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy (cpt). Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, Billy Holland, Tommy O'Donnell, Tomas O'Leary, Lifeimi Mafi, Barry Murphy.
ULSTER: Jamie Smith; Tommy Seymour, Ian Whitten, Luke Marshall, Simon Danielli; Paddy Wallace, Paul Marshall; Bryan Young, Rory Best (cpt), Declan Fitzpatrick, Tim Barker, Ryan Caldwell, TJ Anderson, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack. R’ments: Andi Kryiacou, Tom Court, BJ Botha, Neil McComb, Chris Henry, Ian Porter, Paddy Jackson, David McIlwaine