Williams keeps Ulster's stars right on their toes
Ulster caretaker coach Steve Williams has once again rotated his half-back pairing for the Magners League clash against Leinster at the RDS on Boxing Day.
Ireland World Cup squad members Paddy Wallace and Isaac Boss return to the starting line-up, with Niall O'Connor and Kieran Campbell dropping out of the 22.
Veteran out-half David Humphreys, fit again after a long lay-off with an ankle injury, takes his place on the bench with Paul Marshall also brought into the squad in place of Campbell.
The other change to the starting line-up that lost 16-8 to the Neath/Swansea Ospreys in the Heineken Cup game at Ravenhill sees Justin Fitzpatrick return at loosehead prop in place of Byran Young, who drops to the bench, with Declan Fitzpatrick, having impressed against the Welsh region, keeping his place.
Interestingly, the third change on the bench sees new signing Grant Webb, the former Otago Highlanders and Hawk's Bay No 8 come into the squad having only arrived from New Zealand last Tuesday.
"Grant has settled in very well so far, he is a very bright guy and is picking things up quickly," said Williams, who will also remain in charge of team affairs for Ulster's Magners League game against Munster on January 4, despite the expected announcement today that former Leinster and Scotland coach Matt Williams has been appointed as the permanent successor to Mark McCall.
Shane Horgan is ruled out of the Leinster side because of a rib injury.
Otherwise, leaders Leinster's line-up is along expected lines for the clash against the bottom-placed team.
Leinster coach Michael Cheika says that they hope to move on after last week's defeat in Edinburgh which virtually ended their Heineken Cup hopes.
"Any time you suffer a bad defeat it's the same. You have just got to kick on, do the correct analysis of the game," said Cheika.
" They have had issues for themselves but when it comes to Leinster versus Ulster, it is not going to be any different to any other interprovincial match.
"It is going to be a difficult game for us, especially as it comes on the back of a bad defeat."
Leinster lock Leo Cullen, who has been a key player for Cheika's side since his return from Leicester during the summer, admits Ulster, despite their desperate situation, will be a dangerous animal.
"We're looking forward to the Ulster game and when we went up there a couple of months ago we were really disappointed only coming back with a draw," said Cullen.
"We performed pretty well for the first 50, 60 minutes but we didn't capitalise on some of the pressure.
"By the end of the game we were hanging on. That's something we have to rectify. Ulster are in a tough situation themselves. They're scrapping for their life and are obviously trying to impress whoever is going to come in and take over as their new coach."
LEINSTER: J Gomez, C Healy, O le Roux, B Blaney, B Jackman, S Knoop, S Wright, L Cullen, C Jowitt, M O'Kelly, K Gleeson, S Jennings, S Keogh, J Heaslip, C Keane, C Willis, G Easterby, F Contepomi, J Sexton, C Warner, G D'Arcy, B O'Driscoll, G Brown, L Fitzgerald, R Kearney, G Dempsey.
ULSTER: B Cunningham, T Bowe, A Trimble, R Dewey, S Danielli, P Wallace, I Boss; J Fitzpatrick, R Best (cpt), D Fitzpatrick, J Harrison, R Caldwell, N Best, K Dawson, M McCullough. Replacements: B Young, N Brady, C Del Fava, G Webb, D Pollock, P Marshall, D Humphreys.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU).