Ulster look to see off PRO12 rivals
April 27, 2012
Craig Gilroy was Ulster's hero in the quarter-final against Munster © Getty Images
RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Ulster and Edinburgh meet in Dublin on Saturday with both sides aiming to secure a spot in the Heineken Cup final.
Both sides produced memorable victories against the odds at the quarter-final stage of the competition to book their place in the last four. But form is on Ulster's side based on results between the two this season in the PRO12. The Irish team have prevailed on both occasions dispatching Edinburgh at Murrayfield 42-20 and turning them over at Ravenhill last month 38-16.
However, in the Heineken Cup form and history goes out the window as Edinburgh proved in the quarter-finals. They dispatched European giants Toulouse 19-14 in front of a record crowd at Murrayfield. Their opponents Ulster booked their place in the semis with an impressive 22-16 triumph over Irish rivals Munster at their fortress Thomond Park.
Ulster - Player to Watch: The ageless Stefan Terblanche is handed the fullback reins and he will be looking to add a Heineken Cup winners medal to his illustrious career. The calm head at the back of the field will need to call on all of his experience come Saturday.
Ulster - Team News: Chris Henry misses out on selection after failing to recover from injury so it's Stephen Ferris, Willie Faloon and Pedrie Wannenburg in the back-row. Dan Tuohy and Johann Muller start in the second-row with Tom Court, Rory Best and Declan Fitzpatrick packing down in the front-row. Paul Marshall is passed fit so he starts at scrum-half with Paddy Jackson getting the nod over Ian Humphreys. The back five is Stefan Terblanche, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace and Craig Gilroy.
Edinburgh - Player to Watch: Greig Laidlaw was in inspired form to guide Edinburgh into the final four but he will need to be reliable with the boot once again if his side are to prevail.
Edinburgh - Team News: Michael Bradley has named the same XV that overcame Toulouse in the quarters for their match with Ulster. Tom Brown starts at fullback with Tim Visser and Lee Jones in the back three. Matt Scott and Nick de Luca form the centres with Greig Laidlaw and Mike Blair at half-back. Netani Talei starts at No.8 with Ross Rennie and Dave Denton on the flanks. Grant Gilchrist and Sean Cox form the second-row with Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford and Geoff Cross starting in the front-row.
Key Battle: The battle between Ross Ford and Rory Best at hooker could act as an audition for the British & Irish Lions. Both endured mixed Six Nations from a team point of view but performed well individually. They will need to hit their men in the lineout with ruthless efficiency while providing guidance around the field.
Trivia: Edinburgh are the first Scottish team to qualify for the final four of the Heineken Cup.
Stats: The Aviva Stadium semi-final between Ulster Rugby and Edinburgh Rugby will be the sixth tournament match staged at the home of Irish Rugby since the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road. Last season Leinster Rugby beat Toulouse 32-23 in the semi-final at the stadium.
"Ulster are one of the best teams in Europe at the moment. They are a very strong side with some very big names. There is no question how tough it is going to be. But Toulouse are one of the best teams, if not the best, in the world in terms of history and depth of playing ability. It will be tough on Saturday but we will be up for the challenge." - Edinburgh flanker David Denton
Prediction: Edinburgh will be the story of this season's Heineken Cup regardless of Saturday's result but Ulster will bring a halt to their run with a comfortable win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies