Ravenhill test awaits leaders
October 28, 2010
Ruan Pienaar and the South African contingent at Ulster will test Munster's resources on Friday © Getty Images
Ospreys 16 - 21 Dragons Benetton Treviso 24 - 17 Connacht Leinster 19 - 18 Edinburgh Scarlets 18 - 14 Glasgow Ulster 6 - 16 Munster Aironi 3 - 20 Cardiff Blues
Aironi Benetton Treviso Cardiff Blues Connacht Dragons Edinburgh Glasgow Leinster Munster Ospreys Scarlets Ulster
Magners League pacesetters Munster travel north on Friday night for a mouthwatering clash with Ulster at Ravenhill.
With their only league defeat coming away at another Irish province, Leinster, Tony McGahan will be wary of slipping up - especially given the number of his players who will be on Ireland duty. The Australian can call on John Hayes, Peter Stringer and Johne Murphy who have been released from Declan Kidney's training camp, but Keith Earls is injured but he has just 21 senior players available to him for the clash.
With their contingent of ex-Springboks Ulster are in a strong position for the clash despite the loss of five players to the international team and seven injured players. Ruan Pienaar, Pedrie Wannenburg and Johann Muller will all provide the experience Brian McLaughlin will want to see guide his team back to winning ways after they slipped up at Edinburgh. Irish U-20 international Nevin Spence starts at inside centre in the absence of Paddy Wallace, while Ian Humphreys starts at fly-half. Nigel Brady replaces Rory Best and Bryan Young comes in for the injured BJ Botha.
Also on Friday, basement boys Aironi host the Cardiff Blues who are bolstered by three players made available from the Welsh squad as Martyn Williams and Scott Andrews start and John Yapp is on the bench. Coach Dai Young has handed a debut to teenager Dan Fish at fullback.
Aironi's search for a first ever win continues and coach Franco Bernini has rung the changes with five new faces taking on Cardiff. Gabriel Pizarro returns in place of Matteo Pratichetti, while Danwel Demas replace Venditti on the left wing and scrum-half TitoTebaldi returns to play alongside Ludovic Mercier. Quintin Geldenhuys replaces the injured Carlo Del Falva up front, while Jaco Erasmus starts in the back-row.
Scarlets will look to secure back to back victories by beating Glasgow at Parc y Scarlets, but the Scots are boosted by a full strength squad and the confidence gained from downing the Ospreys last week. Despite that win, Sean Lineen makes four changes to his team as Graeme Morrison makes his 100th Magners League appearance for the club. Peter Horne replaces Bernardo Stortoni at full back, DTH van der Merwe and Federico Aramburu start on the wing and Ed Kalman replaces Moray Low up front.
Leinster's squad depth will be tested as Edinburgh visit the RDS. Leo Cullen will get a chance to strengthen his international chances, while Shane Horgan and Isaac Boss have been released from the Ireland set-up that contains 13 Leinster stars.
Alex Blair, a member of the Scotland 7s team that competed in the Commonwealth Games earlier this month, makes his Edinburgh debut at fly-half alongside elder brother Mike, who has shaken off a bug that prevented him from starting in the victory over Ulster last Friday. However, Edinburgh's other Blair brother, David, is excused the trip to Dublin as a precaution after suffering a blow to the head during a midweek training session.
Connacht travel to Italy to face a Benetton Treviso side who have lost just once at home in the league this season. Eric Elwood will want his charges to bounce back from their heartbreaking defeat to Leinster at the Sportsgrounds last week and he can welcome Brett Wilkinson, John Muldoon and Gavin Duffy back into his squad.
Italian centre Gonzalo Garcia is set to make his Magners League debut after recovering from his shoulder injury eight months ago while young prop Matteo Muccignat could make his first appearance starting from the bench for Treviso.
The Ospreys take on the Dragons on Saturday evening in a Welsh derby at the Liberty Stadium. The Dragons won their second match of the season in hammering Aironi last time out, while the Neath-Swansea side will be looking to bounce back from their humbling visit to Scotland last Sunday.
Dai Flanagan will make his first appearance for the Ospreys at No.10 with Dan Biggar one of a host of players away with Wales. Young back Ashley Beck comes in at inside centre, while Tom Isaacs and Conor McInerney will make their debuts in the Magners League if they come off the bench. With Will Harries with the Welsh team, Pat Leach will start at fullback for the Dragons while Nathan Brew returns to make a start on the wing.
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