We are in for a treat this Friday night as two former European champions, Ulster and Leicester, lock horns at Ravenhill. The Heineken Pool 4 clash is a must-win game for both teams, the hosts currently sitting atop their group on 14 points and the Tigers just two behind them.
Brian McLaughlin has been able to name a full-strength team, with fly-half Ian Humphreys and South African back-rower Pedrie Wannenburg both being declared fit to face the Premiership team. His side also features six Ireland internationals, including Stephen Ferris and Rory Best.
In contrast, Richard Cockerill is without England internationals Toby Flood, Louis Deacon and Manu Tuilagi, who are replaced by Billy Twelvetrees, Geoff Parling and Anthony Allen. Parling was this week named in the England Saxons EPS, along with No 8 Thomas Waldrom.
When Ulster visited Welford Road inNovember they were bullied up front, losing the game 20-9. It was a missed opportunity for the Belfast side, who were facing a Tigers side weakened by a number of injuries.
Crucially, New Zealander John Afoa is available for Ulster this time – in November he had returned home for personal reasons. Alongside Tom Court and Best, he will take on Tigers Marcos Ayerza, Rob Hawkins and Martin Castrogiovanni in what promises to be a fierce battle.
Leicester must win this game to be in with a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals, although Rugby World’s pick to win this pool is Clermont, who currently lie in third place on 11 points. The French side travel to Aironi this weekend and host Ulster next, giving themselves the potential to pick up a further nine or ten points.
The Tigers host Aironi next weekend, a game in which they are expected to pick up five points, but they may exit Ravenhill with nothing, leaving them on 17 points.
While Ulster could pick up four points on Friday night, they will have a job on their hands to beat Clermont away in round six, and so are likely to finish on 18 points.
We’ve given you our predictions but what do you think?
Stefan Terblanche; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa , Johann Muller , Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Adam D’Arcy
Geordan Murphy; Horacio Agulla, Matt Smith, Anthony Allen, Alesana Tuilagi; Billy Twelvetrees, Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, Rob Hawkins, Martin Castrogiovanni, Steve Mafi, Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Julian Salvi, Thomas Waldrom
Replacements: George Chuter, Boris Stankovich, Dan Cole, Ed Slater, Ben Woods, Sam Harrison, Jeremy Staunton, Scott Hamilton
Rugby World’s predicted Pool 4 finish
1 Clermont – 19 points
2 Ulster – 18 points
3 Leicester – 17 points
4 Aironi – 0 pointsLike Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.