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Craig Gilroy returns as 'A' team's plan is to make quarters

By Michael Sadlier

Published 13/01/2017

Comeback: Craig Gilroy lines out tonight for Ulster ‘A’
Comeback: Craig Gilroy lines out tonight for Ulster ‘A’

While the senior side have had their troubles, Ulster 'A' have been getting on with the job and tonight host London Scottish at the Kingspan (kick-off 7.00pm) knowing a win will edge them ever closer to the British and Irish Cup quarter-finals.

And making the last eight in the B&I Cup would be some achievement for the squad coached by Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson as no Ulster 'A' side has been there since 2012.

Indeed, the Pool One leaders are hopeful that they will bin their fairly poor record in the tournament and, for tonight, have been able to select a side with some notable quality and experience.

Craig Gilroy, Robbie Diack and Ricky Lutton are all in the starting team as they return from their various injuries - this will only be Lutton's second game of the season having last been seen in October when playing for the 'A' team against Jersey - while Darren Cave is also being given a run-out and will lead the side.

It looks set to be a tight finish in Pool One, though, as the province are just one point ahead of Jersey Reds while Scottish are also by no means out of things either as they sit in third, only three points back from Campbell's squad.

Should Ulster defeat Scottish, who are the only side to have beaten the province, which came in the second round of their four B&I Cup outings, then it looks set to be a straight shoot-out with Jersey Reds to top the pool in next Saturday's clash at St Peter - assuming, of course, that the Cardiff Premiership Select don't pull off a shock by beating the Reds tomorrow.

"The group is exceptionally tight," said Campbell, "as ourselves, Jersey and London Scottish can all qualify.

"It's hugely positive to be top of the group and we are looking forward to the challenge and maintaining our position to put ourselves in a good position to quality," he added.

Beating Scottish will end the visitors' interest in the competition and Campbell is hoping to replicate some of the team spirit which has been forged in the earlier rounds and, in particular, at the squad's excellent win over Cardiff last time out.

"One of the back bones of the team this year is the desire to do well.

"We hope to give ourselves a platform to play from and are looking for a strong performance with keeps us top for the remaining fixture."

Ulster will again be looking to out-half Johnny McPhillips to orchestrate matters in the same way that he did so successfully in the 'A' team's last game away to Cardiff in December while Rob Lyttle will also provide plenty of attacking threat from full-back.

Academy scrum-half Jonny Stewart gets his first chance to shine and should Diack and co provide a platform, then Ulster have the quality in the backline to get what they need from the game with a bonus point win being the ideal outcome.

Ulster 'A': R Lyttle, D Busby, D Cave (capt), M Best, C Gilroy, J McPhillips, J Stewart; T O'Hagan, J Murphy, R Lutton, R Diack, J Donnan, S Mulholland, C Joyce, L Dow

Replacements: Z McCall, C Trenier, A Thompson, C Smyth, J Creighton, R Butler, J Owens

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