'A' team search for win to keep slim hopes alive
Ulster A's already damaged hopes of making it out of their group rest on them winning tonight when they host Bedford Blues at Deramore in the British and Irish Cup's penultimate round of pool games (kick-off 7.30pm, admission free).
After Ulster shipped a shock 23-7 defeat to the Scarlets Premiership Select side last month at Eaton Park, Alex Codling's squad know only too well that their B&I Cup ambitions are now on the line against the pool leaders.
Ulster are currently five behind Bedford - who beat them in November's corresponding fixture - and two adrift of Bristol in Pool Two and achieving their goal of winning their remaining two games may still only see them reach the last eight as a best runner-up.
Selection wise, Codling has made a number of alterations to the side which fell to the Scarlets with Andy Warwick and Bronson Ross the starting props while, in the back row, Nick Timoney and Lorcan Dow are selected.
The half-backs are also new with Jonny McPhillips at out-half - Sam Windsor is shifted to centre - and Dave Shanahan at nine with the back three now having Rodger McBurney at full-back and Rob Lyttle and Jacob Stockdale on the wings.
Ulster are determined to go for it as hooker and new skipper John Andrew maintains.
"We can still quality which is a good thing as over the last few years there hasn't been anything for us at this stage," the Ballymena player said. "We know we have to win and win quite well in these two games, but hopefully we can just go and do the job.
"We want to bring our game into this and we know if we do we can beat them which will then bring it down the last week in Bristol," added Andrew, who has won eight caps for the Ulster senior side and whose brother, and former Ulster player, Ricky is now with Nottingham in the English Championship
And, yes, there may have been some brotherly advice sought from the older Andrew who plays in the same league as Bedford.
Ulster A: R McBurney, R Lyttle, M Best, S Windsor, J Stockdale, J McPhillips, D Shanahan; A Warwick, J Andrew, B Ross, J Donnan, P Browne, C Joyce, N Timoney, L Dow
Replacements: J Murphy, R Murphy, J Simpson, A Thompson, C Young, P Rowley, A Magrath.