Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Nick Williams in running as Ulster prepare to ring the changes

Ulster's Nick Williams should return to the front row
Ulster's Nick Williams should return to the front row

Uslter are hopeful that Nick Williams will return to the fold for Saturday's PRO12 game at the Scarlets (kick-off 6.30pm) where Mark Anscombe's much altered side will be seeking to sign off for the autumn break by racking up their seventh straight win in all competitions.

Williams has been missing for the last two games since picking up a calf injury in the European opener against Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill and with so many of Ulster's frontline forwards either at Ireland's training camp or – as is the case with Johann Muller and Iain Henderson – on the side-lines, the pile-driving Kiwi's presence, if fit, will certainly be an advantage at Parc y Scarlets.

It has been a disruptive week of preparation for Ulster with eight players originally hooking up with the national squad and then Andrew Trimble, Roger Wilson and Darren Cave all being called down Ireland's base in Co Kildare.

However, the hope was that some combination of the three late additions could be released back to Anscombe ahead of the trip to Wales as Ulster prepare to put together a considerably changed combination but still one that should have a core of experience in John Afoa, Jared Payne and Ruan Pienaar all involved, with the latter not hooking up with South Africa's autumn tour until after the weekend.

"It's a little bit disruptive," assistant coach Jonny Bell admitted.

"We're training with guys and we don't know for sure the players we'll be starting with at the weekend, but that's the situation.

"But It's a great opportunity for guys who are quality players in that 16 to 23 and in that 23 down to step in stake a claim."

It is thought that Robbie Diack could move into the second row alongside Lewis Stevenson for the clash with the Scarlets while Callum Black and Rob Herring will join Afoa in the front row.

Should Wilson be released by Ireland then he can play at blindside flanker if Williams is good to go at number eight with the openside berth then being a straight choice between Mike McComish and Sean Doyle.

As for the make-up of the starting backline, Anscombe has a number of options with possibly Pienaar or the impressive Stuart Olding being the front-runners at out-half.

Indeed, Olding's versatility means that he could also play at centre or full-back, while Peter Nelson is another possibility to start at 15 – in Craig Gilroy's continued absence – should Olding end up at either 10 or 12.

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