Edinburgh will present a big challenge admits Ulster coach Neil Doak

Ulster welcome back Irish international Iain Henderson, above in action against France in the Six Nations last weekend in Dublin
Ulster welcome back Irish international Iain Henderson, above in action against France in the Six Nations last weekend in Dublin

Ulster head coach, Neil Doak, expects his side to show improved form on Friday night when they look to pick up a rare away win against Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO12.

The Irish Province kick-started a crucial block of domestic games with a bonus point win against Benetton Treviso last weekend which pushed them into fourth place in the standings.

It completed the double over the Italian side – Ulster’s previous PRO12 game was a win in Treviso which had ended a poor run of defeats on the road.

That was Ulster’s only win away in eight previous games while Edinburgh have won their last eight home games in all competitions.

All the games during the current block of matches are against teams below Ulster in the table, but Doak rejected the expectancy that there were any ‘gimme’s’ in the coming weeks.

“Edinburgh are a team in form,” insisted Doak. “They are eight from eight at home and have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

“The defeated The Ospreys last weekend, and they were the leaders of the league at that time.

“This is going to be a tough, tough fixture and given our away record it will be a challenge for us.

“We played well last week at times, but crucially we have to make sure we start well.

“If we play like we did in the first 20 minutes last week then it could make for a long night.”

Doak continued: “We got the maximum we could have asked for in terms of league points last week and it was the perfect way to go into this match.

“But It’s going to be a huge task for us going over there this weekend

“Although we played really well at times against Treviso, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.”

Ulster are boosted by the expected return of Ireland international Iain Henderson.

He was a powerhouse in the home win against Leicester Tigers last month which marked his return to playing after a seven month injury lay-off.

And he has impressed in cameo appearances off the bench for Ireland in the opening Six Nations wins against Italy and France.

Henderson – who agreed a new three-year deal with Ulster on Wednesday – was one of two changes to the side which defeated Treviso, with centre, Stuart McCloskey getting the nod ahead of Luke Marshall.

McCloskey came off the bench last weekend after a three month injury lay-off and gave an impressive display which included scoring one of the six Ulster tries on the night.

The rest of the team is unchanged with Callum Black, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst forming the front row, Franco van der Merwe partnering Henderson in the second row, with captain, Roger Wilson, Nick Williams and Mike McComish selected in the back row.

Ruan Pienaar starts at scrum half, Ian Humphreys wins his 99th cap for Ulster at outhalf and Darren Cave starts in midfield alongside McCloskey.

Louis Ludik continues at fullback alongside Michael Allen and Craig Gilroy in the back three.

Forwards, John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson and Clive Ross are named on the replacements’ bench, as are backs Paul Marshall, Luke Marshall and Peter Nelson.