Ulster head coach Neil Doak is counting on his returning international players’ experience to help turn their poor fortunes on the road – and he may even try a bit of reverse psychology to improve the performance.
Outhalf Paddy Jackson and centre Darren Cave will both start for Ulster on Friday night as they go into three back-to-back away games at Limerick’s Thomond Park against Munster in the first Guinness PRO12 Irish derby of the season.
They started from the bench last week having just returned from the Rugby World Cup and a third member of the Irish team, Chris Henry will make his first appearance for Ulster this season having been named on the bench.
It is a boost for Ulster to have the trio back – Rory Best is likely to return next week for the PRO12 game in Newport while Ruan Pienaar, who will start for South African tonight against Argentina in the Bronze Medal Final, could also be back for that game.
Ulster have won their three home games to date in the PRO12 with bonus point successes, but on the road they failed to perform against Scarlets and Edinburgh.
Poor discipline played a large part in those defeats and Doak may apply some reverse psychology in his pre-match team talk.
“I am not going to mention anything about how we should start the game. I am just going to say let’s give away as many penalties as we can because we will probably do the opposite to that,” he remarked.
The comment may have been tongue-in-cheek but Doak does expect things to improve dramatically on the penalty concession count.
“If you give a foothold to any opposition in the game then we are making a rod for our own back. We have to be better,” he added.
“There are fine margins in the games and playing away to Munster those margins are finer again. We have to be on our game and we have to be disciplined.”
Cave and Jackson are two of four changes to the side which secured a bonus point win over Cardiff last week. Peter Nelson will start at fullback while Andy Warwick comes in at loosehead.