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Ravens need immediate lift-off

Two defeats in three games has left the Ulster Ravens with an uphill task to reach the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup.

Last week’s defeat at home to Neath, despite leading 17-3 at half time, means Gary Longwell’s side must win away at London Welsh this afternoon (2.00pm) to keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive.

The Ravens are third in Pool C seven points behind leaders Bedford and four adrift of second- placed Moseley, although the Midlands club have played a game less.

There are two changes in the back line from the side that conceded three second half tries to Neath last week. Belfast Harlequins duo Michael Allen and Michael Heaney come in. Allen partners Luke Marshall in midfield with Jonny Shiels dropping to the bench, while Heaney replaces Ian Porter at scrum half.

It’s all change in the pack as the Ravens look to improve a scrum that was under pressure last week.

Hooker Niall Annett gets a start while Instonians’ Alan Whitten comes in at tight head prop. Queen’s lock Ian Henderson partners Ryan Caldwell in the second row with Neil McComb moving to No 8. American Scott Lavella replaces Ali Birch at blindside flanker while David McGuigan keeps his place on the open side.

Connacht-bound Niall O’Connor is on an inexperienced bench which includes John Burns, Kyle McCall and Blane McIlroy.

London Welsh are bottom of Pool C with just one losing bonus point from two games.

ULSTER RAVENS: J Smith; T Seymour, M Allen, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, M Heaney; C Carey, N Annett, A Whitten, R Caldwell, I Henderson, S Lavella, D McGuigan, N McComb. Replacements: J Burns, K McCall, R Hackney, P Pritchard, B McIlroy, N O’Connor, J Shiels.

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