Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

Match Page 2017-18 - Current Standing WP: 134

Match Page 2017-18 - H2H WP: 136

Match Page 2017-18 - Last 3 Matches WP: 142

Match Page 2017-18 - Season so Far WP:141

Preview: Ulster v Munster

Ross Lawson 30 Dec 2017
Zebo

With a sell-out crowd, it promises to be a thrilling New Year’s Day clash at the Kingspan Stadium as Ulster and Munster lock horns in round 12.

Both teams will have a point to prove too having lost last time out to Connacht and Leinster respectively.

What’s at stake? After seeing their five-game unbeaten run in all tournaments ended against Connacht, third-placed Ulster will be looking to bounce back and ensure Leinster and Scarlets do not pull away at the top of Conference B.

Munster meanwhile will also be keen not to open the door for the chasing pack and instead consolidate second spot in Conference A behind Glasgow Warriors.

The Munstermen also saw their five-game winning run ended by Leinster on St Stephen’s Day, although they have only won twice on the road in the Guinness PRO14 this season, at Ospreys in round 3 and Zebre in round 9.

Team news (Ulster): Rob Herring will captain the side after recovering from concussion while there are welcome returns from two-month injury lay-offs for Rodney Ah You and Kyle McCall who join their skipper in the front row.

Jean Deysel, who has also been out of action for over two months, is named at No.8, while Rob Lyttle makes his first start of the season after being named on the left wing and Australian fly-half Christian Lealiifano returns to the starting XV after being rested for the defeat by Connacht.

Team news (Munster) Head coach Johann van Graan names a much-changed side for the clash with Ulster, making 11 changes in total to the XV which lost to Leinster.

James Cronin, Niall Scannell and John Ryan start together in the front row for the first time this season while Darren O’Shea joins Billy Holland in the second row, with the latter taking over captaincy duties for his 16th successive start this campaign.

Keith Earls has received from illness to be named in the backline while replacement Ronan O’Mahony is included in his first match-day squad since suffering a fractured fibula against Treviso last April.

Talking points: Ulster’s Charles Piutau said: “I think execution has been a big part of our game where it tends to change momentum for us or is the difference between winning a losing a game.

“I, one hundred per cent, have the belief that we can turn it around and I’m excited about that challenge.”

Munster’s Johann van Graan said: “Ulster are very well set in Europe and in the table in the PRO14. They are a quality side. I can’t control what Ulster does, we’ve just got to reset ourselves.

“We’re going to go with quite a few changes, we will refine our plan and back the depth of our squad to go and put in a good performance in Belfast.”

Key battle: Charles Piutau v Simon Zebo

Both teams have opted to shuffle things around after losses, with 22 combined changes across the squads – and the experience and know-how of both Charles Piutau and Simon Zebo could prove crucial.

Both are departing their clubs at the end of the season but will have a vital role to play before the current campaign is up.

Zebo is drafted into the back-line, wearing the No.15 jersey, alongside Ireland teammate Keith Earls after starting the Boxing Day clash on the bench.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Piutau is restored to the starting line-up and will be desperate to make an impact after being rested for the Connacht match – a defeat he described as painful to watch.

Key stat: Ulster have lost just once in Belfast in the Guinness PRO14 since Munster last won there in October 2016: 10-25 to Leinster in round 7 this season.

Did you know: The Munstermen have won on their last two visits to the Kingspan Stadium but have never won three in a row in Belfast since they first made the trip north in 1910.

Ulster: Charles Piutau; Craig Gilroy, Louis Ludik, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle; Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney, Kyle McCall, Rob Herring (captain), Rodney Ah You, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Callum Black, Wiehahn Herbst, Robbie Diack, Matthew Rea, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Andrew Trimble

Munster: Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash, Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Darren O’Shea, Billy Holland (c); Tommy O’Donnell, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Rory Loughman, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Bill Johnston, Ronan O’Mahony.

Match officialsreferee: Sean Gallagher

AR1: Nigel Correll

AR2: Paul Haycock

TMO: Kevin Beggs

TV: BBC2 NI, TG4 (KO 17:35)

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Ulster fightback stuns Munster at the Kingspan

Charlie Talbot-Smith 1 Jan 2018

Craig Gilroy crossed for a second-half double as Ulster came storming back in the second half to down 14-man Munster in a dramatic Guinness PRO14 clash on New Year’s Day.

Munster – chasing a third successive win at the Kingspan Stadium for the first time – stormed into a 17-0 lead at the interval thanks to a dominant pack performance but were undone after Sam Arnold’s red card.

Niall Scannell twice went over at the back of rolling mauls in the first half while the Munster scrum also won a penalty try as a shellshocked Ulster were outfoxed up front time after time.

But after the break Ulster turned it around, although man of the match John Cooney had a first score disallowed soon after the break.

Fineen Wycherley was then sent to the sin bin for the visitors as Ulster fought back in the back and Darren Cave eventually went over to begin the turnaround.

Cooney slotted the extras but the real key was that Arnold was also shown a red card for a high tackle on Christian Lealiifano in the build-up.

With Munster down to 13 men and the Kingspan bouncing, Gilroy dived onto Cave’s grubber to make it 17-12 after the hour mark.

And the winger had his second soon after down the right and the hosts were, unbelievably, leading a clash they had been outclassed in for huge chunks.

And there was still time late on for Rob Lyttle to dive over down the left wing to seal a bonus point that means Ulster keep pace with Scarlets and Leinster in Conference A.

Munster have now won only twice on their travels in the Guinness PRO14 this season and have slipped to back to back league defeats under new boss Johan van Graan meaning the Toyota Cheetahs could catch them in Conference B later this month.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138