British and Irish Cup team news: Ravens vs Ravens
Roger Wilson will make his return from injury tomorrow as Ulster Ravens kick off their British & Irish Cup campaign against Bridgend Ravens (Deramore Park, Belfast, 2.30pm).
The team will be looking to improve on last year’s performance, when they were eliminated at the semi final stage by a strong Munster A side.Head coach Allen Clarke has named a strong line up for the Pool 1 opener, with Neil McComb leading the team from the second row. The match day squad is made up predominantly by contracted and Academy players.
Wilson will line out in his familiar number 8 position while Conor Joyce and Ali Birch have been named at blindside and openside flanker respectively. Belfast Harlequins duo Richard Lutton and Niall Annett, playing at their home ground, will be joined in the front row by Conor Carey. New Malone player Alan O’Connor will partner McComb at lock.
Blane McIlroy and Niall O’Connor will form the half back partnership and they will have Ireland U20 star Stuart Olding and Ricky Andrew in midfield. Chris Cochrane, Adam D’Arcy and Peter Nelson make up a pacey back three.
Ulster Ravens XV & replacements to face Bridgend Ravens, British & Irish Cup, Sat 13th October, Deramore Park, Belfast (2.30pm):
(15-9): Peter Nelson; Adam D’Arcy, Ricky Andrew, Stuart Olding, Chris Cochrane; Niall O’Connor, Blane McIlroy;
(1-8): Richard Lutton, Niall Annett, Conor Carey, Alan O’Connor, Neil McComb (capt), Conor Joyce, Ali Birch, Roger Wilson;
Replacements (16-22): John Burns, Kyle McCall, James Simpson, Sean O’Connell, Michael Heaney, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes.
Management team: Allen Clarke, Gary Longwell, Alan Rankin, Kieran Campbell, David Drake, Alan McCaldin, Chris Hagan.
Bridgend Ravens are all set to make their British & Irish Cup début as they travel to Belfast to take on their namesake Ulster Ravens on Saturday (KO 2:30pm).
Bridgend go in to the competition having won their last match, a twelve-try thriller against Newport at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field, and will be keen to replicate that success at Deramore Park.
The tournament has expanded to 32 teams for the 2012/13 season, after only hosting 24 sides for the three seasons since its inauguration in 2009/10. A Welsh side has yet to lift the trophy, with Cross Keys coming closest last season, losing 31-12 to Munster A in the final.
For Bridgend’s opponents Ulster Ravens (Ulster Rugby’s ‘A’ side), this will be their fourth year in the B&I Cup, with their best result coming in the 2009/10 season when they lost 27-3 to Munster A in the semi-finals.
Bridgend Ravens have named some changes from the side that overpowered Newport 42-35 last weekend. With Matthew Dwyer and Matthew Morgan in the squad for the Ospreys’ Heineken Cup fixture against Treviso, Ross Jones returns from regional duty to start at fly-half.
Ashley Evans partners Nathan Edwards in the centre whilst full-back Jamie Murphy and wings Luke Morgan and Tom Grabham keep their places. Jon Thomas starts in the front-row ahead of Marc Thomas and Owain Lloyd is in for Josh Jacas in an otherwise unchanged pack.
All 12 Principality Premiership sides are taking part in this year’s competition along with 12 English sides from the RFU Championship, four top clubs from the Scottish Premiership and the four Irish provinces represented by ‘A’ teams.
Bridgend Ravens were drawn in Pool 1, along with Cardiff and Bristol, who also meet on Saturday at Cardiff Arms Park.
Bridgend Ravens squad to face Ulster Ravens:
15. Jamie Murphy
14. Tom Grabham
13. Ashley Evans
12. Nathan Edwards
11. Luke Morgan
10. Ross Jones
9. Chris Williams
1. Jonathan Thomas
2. Ashleigh James
3. Owen Williams
4. Owain Lloyd
5. Lee Davies
6. Jonathon Vaughan (c)
7. Arthur Ellis
8. Adam Hillier-Rees
Replacements: Daniel Suter, Marc Thomas, Alun Evans, Scott Hicks, Andrew Waite, Kyle Barrett, Glen Lewis