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Soper believes Banbridge are ready to take on greater tests


By Ronnie Ingram

Banbridge have kicked off their campaign with two victories from their opening two games - indeed, they scored five tries in each - but they face a real test tomorrow afternoon when they travel to Ballynahinch in the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership Division One.

Bann coach Daniel Soper commented: "This is a very important game for us. Not only do we want to win but we need to measure ourselves against strong opposition before we play our first AIL fixture at UL Bohemians next week.

"Hinch have been the foremost team in the province over the past number of seasons so we are fortunate to face them before our debut in AIL 1B.

"We will be able to judge the speed that will be needed, and hopefully the experience will let us know what is expected."

Bann, who have had a league victory over Malone (29-27) and a Senior Cup triumph over Rainey OB (32-12), will have their hand strengthened as scrum-half Ian Porter will make his first appearance of the season. Robert Lyttle and Greg Jones have been released by Ulster and will also run out for the first time this campaign.

James McCrum has sufficiently recovered from his injury to take a place on the bench to cover for the props.

"Apart from a few changes, the squad will be much the same," concluded Soper.

Champions Armagh started the defence of their title with a 32-19 win over Ballynahinch but will be without Ali Birch against Ballymena this weekend.

Coach Willie Faloon said: "We have had a free week and it was used effectively. Ballymena have also not played for a fortnight but we can expect a very tough contest and they will be out for revenge as it was our 34-12 win against them last season that gave us the title.".

City of Derry, meanwhile, face Malone.

Division Two fixtures: Dungannon v Bangor, Queen's v Belfast Harlequins, Rainey v Omagh.

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