October 19, 2014
Ulster's visit to Welford Road will bring back fond memories of their last visit there back in Jan of this year when they defeated a fancied Tigers side by 22 - 19 with Ruan Pienaar scoring all Ulster's points in a man of the match performance. Back then Ulster and Leicester were on top of their game, unlike now with Ulster stuttering and staggering to this point and Leicester having won just 1 game this season. But stats count for nothing in the European Cup when passion and the will to win come to the fore all of which should lead to an intriguing game.
Ulster's much publicised fall out with their head coach Anscombe and the departure of David Humphreys to Gloucester unsettled the team in pre season training and the early matches, but Les Kiss and Neil Doak settled the ship and they are now heading in the right direction. With long serving Ulsterman Doak now at the helm the future looks bright again. Ulster have improved game on game in the Guinness PRO12 (not forgetting the Zebre match). The intensity has returned to the forwards game plan and the the ball is beginning to stick to the backs hands all of which led to a great win over Glasgow last week and a much needed confidence boost heading into the opening weekend of the Champions Cup.
Leicester on the other hand have struggled with their game and the record defeat to Bath Rugby a few weeks ago was a new low for them but they too come into this game on the back of a decent win over Harlequins last week which will boost their morale. Given that Welford Road was a fortress until Ulster became the first team to beat them there in the Heinekin Cup in 7 years Ulster will make the journey with confidence having beaten the Tigers in their last 3 meetings.
Speaking ahead of the trip to Welford Road, Doak has called on his squad for a rise in intensity.
"We're wanting to hit the different level of intensity that Europe brings. You build your foundation for the first hour, take stock and at the back end make sure you're in the right areas and we're not thinking about anything else other than the win."
Ulster make 3 changes to the team that started against Glasgow Warriors last week. Andrew Trimble misses out with a toe problem so Craig Gilroy gets the nod on the wing, while Lewis Stevenson replaces the suspended Alan O'Connor. Paddy Jackson is the other player to come in, replacing the unlucky Ian Humphreys in the starting line-up.
Leicester welcome back Argentina prop Marcos Ayerza, who comes straight into the starting lineup in the only change to the team that won last time out against Harlequins.
A close game to call but Ulster's confidence is high and they have the better bench to call on. Ulster to win by 10pts.
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Andy Warwick
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Clive Ross, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Darren Cave.
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Sebastian de Chaves, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 David Mélé, 22 Sam Harrison, 23 Miles Benjamin
Date: Saturday, October 18
Venue: Welford Road
Kickoff: 19:45 local
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Christophe Berdos (France), Stéphane Boyer (France)
TMO: Bernard Dal Maso (France)
Live on BT Sport.