Mike Stanley gets nod for Ulster start against Dragons

Ulster's Mike Stanley
Ulster's Mike Stanley

Samoan international Mike Stanley will make his run-on debut for Ulster in Sunday afternoon’s Pro12 clash with the Dragons at Rodney Parade.

Stanley, capped three times for Samoa, was signed on a short term contract as medical cover for the injured Paddy Jackson, had a 10 minute cameo from the bench in last week’s win over the Scarlets and will start at inside centre as both Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall are suspended.

Stanley’s midfield partner, Darren Cave, will captain the Province for the very first time as Roger Wilson is also suspended.

The hugely experienced 27-year-old has played for Ulster 154 times and been capped by Ireland eight times. Cave has been one of the most consistent performers for Neil Doak’s side this season and was rewarded with a new three-year contract.

South African scrum half Ruan Pienaar is poised to pass the 500 points barrier in the domestic competition and goes into the game on 499 points from 58 appearances in the Pro12.

Since making his debut in October 2010 against Glasgow, the Springbok sharpshooter has kicked 93 penalties, 76 conversions and a drop goal and has also ran in 13 tries.

The rest of the back line remains unchanged with Ian Humphreys retaining his place at out half, Mike Allen and Craig Gilroy on the wings and Louis Ludik providing the last line of defence at full back.

Ireland U20 centre Sam Arnold could make his debut after being named among the replacements.

In the pack, Iain Henderson has returned from Ireland duty and starts at blindside flanker and is a straight swap for Wilson.

Henderson missed the first part of the season due to injury and has only played twice for Ulster in this campaign but has come off the bench in all three of Ireland’s Six Nations games.

South African prop Wiehahn Herbst has recovered from the hamstring problem that forced his second half withdrawal against the Scarlets and is joined in the front row by hooker Rob Herring and Callum Black, who makes his five consecutive start.

Dan Tuohy and Franco van der Merwe continue their partnership in the engine room while loose forward Robbie Diack has recovered from a back injury to take his place on the replacements bench.

Ulster are looking for a fifth successive Pro12 win to consolidate their place in the playoff places while the Dragons only win in their last five games came at the RDS against Leinster.