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Impressed Ulster coach Neil Doak will keep faith with Peter Nelson for Scarlets clash


Neil Doak

Neil Doak

Neil Doak

Ulster are set to start Peter Nelson at out-half again this weekend as they hit the road for the first time this season for their PRO12 clash at the Scarlets on Saturday (kick-off 3.00pm and live on Sky Sports).

In the wake of last week's impressive bonus-point victory over the Ospreys at the Kingspan Stadium - when Nelson was parachuted in to play out-half for the first time at this level due to an injury crisis - head coach Neil Doak is ready to hand the 22-year-old the No.10 shirt again.

Nelson, who until last week had made 22 appearances for Ulster in the back three, acquitted himself well in the 28-6 win over the Ospreys after both squad out-halves Ian Humphreys (hamstring) and Sam Windsor (Achilles) were forced out of the season opener.

And with neither Humphreys nor Windsor ready to return, Dungannon-born Nelson will get another chance to show his worth as Ulster aim to rack up successive wins from the initial two-game segment before the PRO12 breaks until the first weekend of October.

"We've got another ginger in there hopefully," Doak joked about the out-half situation.

"Pete looked pretty composed on Friday night and the result in the end showed that.

"I thought he handled the game pretty well. Hopefully that will give him the confidence if he's starting at 10 this week."

Indeed, getting that desired result from the Parc y Scarlets will be quite a test for Doak's side in what has not been a happy hunting ground for them - last season they drew in the PRO12 and lost out in Europe - and the home team will also be surging with confidence after ending a heavily World-Cup depleted Glasgow's impressive home record last weekend.

Doak should have Robbie Diack back in the mix after he was rested for the Ospreys game due to illness and the composition of Ulster's back row will be an area the coach will be closely looking at as they go up against the impressive John Barclay and James Davies, who both had barnstorming games at the league champions' Scotstoun home.

Ulster will also be seeking to reduce the number of scrum penalties they conceded last Friday when tight-head prop Wiehahn Herbst got on the wrong side of the referee, though some of the calls against the South African did look debatable.

On the opposite side of the scrum, Andy Warwick is all set to get handed another start at loose-head prop on Saturday in the continued injury-enforced absence of Callum Black.

"When you get penalised at the first scrum certain things happen," Doak said of the issue.

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"No matter whether or not it's you, the picture has been painted in the referee's eyes and unfortunately that (picture) then materialised a little bit.

"We've looked at that this week and Allen Clarke (forwards coach) and the forwards have worked hard in that area because we're away from home and if you look at one of the games we had last year against Scarlets, we gave away a few penalties at scrum time and it cost us the game.

"We know we'll have to be better at our set-piece, but if we can finish this block of games, and go into the break with two wins, that would be a great opportunity for us to kick on when we get back again."

Regarding Saturday's referee - Irishman Andrew Brace will be taking charge of only his second game in the competition, though he did officiate the pre-season friendly against Leinster - the issue of inexperienced officials having to step up while more established names are at the World Cup cropped up with Doak simply accepting that it was up to his squad to keep cool and remain disciplined.

"We appreciate that it's probably only his second game at PRO12 level, and it's live on Sky, so no doubt, as with some of the (less experienced) players, he will be nervous," said Doak.

"Unlike last season when they (referees) played a little bit of a part in some of our results, we want to try and take that (factor) away and be accurate."

PRO12 League: SCarlets v Ulster, Parc y Scarlets, Saturday, 3pm

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