Belfast Telegraph

Muller's rapid recovery a big bonus

By Niall Crozier

With the exceptions of Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall, Ulster could – if they so choose – field those who lined out against Saracens in the Heineken Cup for Friday night's RaboDirect PRO12 date with Connacht in Galway.

Thirteen of the 15 who started in the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Saracens at Twickenham 11 days ago are in the 25-strong extended squad.

Captain Johann Muller's quicker-than-anticipated recovery from the arm injury he suffered in that match, the availability of Chris Henry who was rested last weekend, the unexpected thumbs-up for his fellow-Ireland international Iain Henderson who went over on an ankle against the Dragons and John Afoa's return from New Zealand after a second spot of paternal leave means each of the forwards who faced Saracens from the off is available for the trek to the west.

Behind the pack, winger Andrew Trimble and fly-half Paddy Jackson – like flanker Henry – are back after their time-out.

The 25 will be trimmed to 23 tomorrow when Anscombe announces his starters and the eight replacements with one of the three tight-head props – Afoa, Declan Fitzpatrick and Ricky Lutton – stepping down.

In the backline, either Michael Allen or Adam D'Arcy looks like being surplus to requirements.

Robbie Diack – a replacement against Saracens and outstanding in last week's 31-5 rout of the Dragons – will start on this occasion, almost certainly at six. That, of course, is where Henderson packed down at Twickenham before switching to the second row against Dragons in Muller's absence.

Assuming Muller is fully fit, he and Dan Tuohy will play together at lock, with Lewis Stevenson the engine-room replacement and Henderson providing back row cover from the bench.

Certainly that is where Paul Marshall – now just one appearance short of a century for Ulster – looks like starting while Ruan Pienaar and Jackson will resume their half-back partnership.

Belfast Telegraph


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