Ravenhill stars desperate to dedicate a win to Nevin on poignant anniversary
Published 13/09/2013 | 01:30
Ulster have said that if they beat Glasgow Warriors tonight at Ravenhill, they will dedicate their victory to the memory Nevin Spence.
The 22-year-old Ulster midfielder, in whose honour the education and heritage centre in the Memorial Stand has been named, died with his brother Graham and the boys' father Noel in a slurry tank accident at the family farm near Hillsborough on September 15 last year.
With Sunday being the first anniversary of that tragedy, Nevin's image will be displayed on the big screens at new-look Ravenhill tonight. That will be a real lump-in-the-throat moment for Ulster players and supporters alike. 'Gone but not forgotten' will be the message.
Luke Marshall, also 22, spoke fondly of his former midfield colleague.
"For me personally, when things are going well on the rugby pitch, all I seemed to be able to think about was that Nevin wasn't there and I wasn't playing with him any more.
"It has been a tough enough year and this weekend I think will be tough, just reflecting," Marshall said.
Coach Mark Anscombe added: "He's going to be remembered forever and a day with the players. We always try to do justice to the jersey every time we go out and he's part of the family that's worn that jersey."
Tonight's starting line-up for the visit of Glasgow sees seven changes of personnel plus two positional switches to the side beaten 15-8 by Newport Gwent Dragons last Friday night.
Only one of those changes was enforced, with Andrew Trimble likely to be missing for four-to-six weeks after picking up a finger injury. The Ireland wing will have surgery tomorrow morning and in his absence, David McIlwaine switches from left to right wing and Michael Allen named at 11.
In midfield Chris Farrell is omitted, with his place at number 12 going to Luke Marshall who in moves from outside-centre. Darren Cave is back in his favourite 13 role after starting on the bench at Rodney Parade.
There is a change at scrum-half, too, where Ian Porter and Paul Marshall swap roles. This time it is Porter who starts, with Marshall in the role of understudy.
In the pack, Declan Fitzpatrick is upgraded to a starting role on the tight-head side of an otherwise unchanged front row, trading places with Ricky Lutton who drops to the bench.
And the return of Nick Williams at No 8 sees Roger Wilson switch to the blind side flank, with Sean Doyle on the open-side where Chris Henry was deployed last week.
Ireland's Iain Henderson – who has not played for Ulster as yet this season – is one of the eight replacements.
"A good squad is one that can respond to poor performances and bounce back," Anscombe said. "What we have to do is to right the wrongs and get our accuracy a bit better than it was last week. If we can get that right then we can get a reasonable performance."
Anscombe's Glasgow counterpart, Gregor Townsend, has included a quartet of star turns – Stuart Hogg, Ryan Grant, DTH van der Merwe and Josh Strauss – in his starting line-up.
This will be Hogg's first start at full-back since representing the Lions in Australia over the summer.
With last season's leading try-scorer van der Merwe named on the left wing former Ulster player Tommy Seymour – a scorer in last week's win over Cardiff – starts on the right in a very strong-looking back three.
Scotland's Ruaridh Jackson has been promoted from the bench to start at fly-half, in partnership with Henry Pyrgos. The scrum-half is tonight's captain in the absence of injured Al Kellock whose place in the engine-room goes to Scotland under-20 captain Jonny Gray.
Grant – like Hogg, a summer tourist with the Lions – returns at loose-head, while Strauss is back at No 8. And Tyrone Holmes makes his first competitive start for the Warriors.
Townsend said: "We are well aware of the strengths of our opponents and their home record, so we will have to be close to our best at Ravenhill."