ASSISTANT coach, Neil Doak, is in no doubt Ulster can continue their impressive unbeaten run to the season in spite of making 10 changes for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Edinburgh at Ravenhill.
The Irish Province will be keen to show their strength in depth and although the team shows many changes from that which put 40-plus points on the Dragons in Newport last week, it is filled with experienced personnel.
There was one shock delivered by the Ulster management, slotting Ricky Andrew in at fullback for his second competitive cap, having only previously played two minutes off the bench against Leinster last season.
The Ballymena and Ulster Ravens player was involved in the pre-season friendlies but Thursday’s inclusion did come out of the blue and sees Jared Payne moving to the centre.
There were expected changes in the line-up given the record number of players away with Ireland and some key names on the injury list.
However, while Andrew may only be winning his second cap, the other changes to the side include the return of experienced players such as Stephen Ferris, Roger Wilson and Nigel Brady who will captain the team. The trio have over 350 caps between them.
Doak said: “Some of the young guys coming in have played with the Ravens so the transition of coming into the PRO12 is not as great.
“It was no surprise to us that we were going to have quite a few players called away to the Irish training camp now, and hopefully again next year ahead of the Six Nations, so it is important to give others the opportunity.”
With Ulster leading the PRO12 and facing an Edinburgh side who have lost six games on the bounce and a poor record at Ravenhill, the Irish Province are the clear favourites tonight.
Doak said: “The challenge for us is to go out and perform and ensure that we finish this segment unbeaten. We certainly do not want to see the eight match run come to an end at the last bit.
“There is no danger of complacency setting in because the guys know if they do not perform well, the shirt will not be there for them to wear the next time.”