Ulster: Johnny McPhillips wants to grasp Ulster chance against Leinster

Ulster outhalf Johnny McPhillips is expecting a stern test against Leinster
Ulster outhalf Johnny McPhillips is expecting a stern test against Leinster

Having been handed a rare start this season for Ulster against Connacht, Johnny McPhillips failed to deliver on expectations.

But the young outhalf has been given another opportunity one of only four players retained from the side which lost 21-12 in Galway last weekend for Saturday evening’s derby clash with Leinster at the RDS Arena (5.15pm).

As was widely expected ahead of two huge European Champions Cup pool matches next weekend, Ulster have made 11 changes to their starting line-up, while Leinster have also rung the changes following the loss to Musnter in Limerick.

Injured trio Wiehahn Herbst, Andy Warwick and Alan O’Connor, who captains the side, are put straight into the starting line-up.

Michael Lowry and Matthew Dalton join fellow Ulster Academy team-mates Angus Kernohan and James Hume - both retained from last weekend - and Greg Jones in the starting line-up.

Robert Lyttle returns from a long injury lay-off to take a place on the wing.

Dave Shanahan starts at sc rumhalf and along with McPhillips will be keen to put on a show.

McPhillips impressed towards the end of last season getting a regular starting berth, but since the arrival of Billy Burns, McPhillips has had to play second fiddle to the former Gloucester fly-half.

And that was probably a factor in a below par performance when he started last week - having impressed coming off the bench this term.

But his confidence will be boosted by the back-to-back starts as well as the prospect of being able to help put one over on the double champions Leinster in their won back yard.

“Obviously coming in on the back of a disappointing performance both from team and, if I’m being hard on myself, personally as well so I’ve got another opportunity this week and we’ve got another one as a team to raise the standard and really put a good marker down,” said McPhillips. “There is no where better, no where tougher to go than the RDS.

In terms of having to yield to Burns after last season’s finale, McPhillips said: “I think I’d be in the wrong environment if I wasn’t gutted and chomping at the bit.

“But at the same time, the coaches gave me good feedback and I need to be patient and, when these opportunities come, perform as well and look at a general thing as well, contribute to the team if I am getting 10 or 20 minutes here and there, or even a minute I need to be switched on.

“I need to be performing and contributing as much as I can so that’s all I’m looking to do and then the rest, hopefully, will take care of itself.

“Yes, after last week, there are some things I will want to put right this week,” added the number 10.

Leinster are 16 points clear of Ulster at the head of PRO14’s Conference B and firm favourites to win in Dublin tonight.

Ulster last won at the RDS in 2013 - their first success in Dublin since 1999.

Leinster, who had gone fully loaded in their loss to Munster last week are able to include British Lion Rob Kearney at fullback along with Jack McGrath, both coming back from injury.

Leinster: R Kearney (capt); A Byrne, C O’Brien, N Reid, B Daly; C Frawley, J Gibson-Park; J McGrath, S Cronin, A Porter; R Molony, M Kearney; J Murphy, S Penny, M Deegan.

Replacements: J Tracy, E Byrne, M Bent, O Dowling, C Doris, H O’Sullivan, R Byrne, J O’Brien.

Ulster: M Lowry; R Lyttle, D Cave, J Hume, A Kernohan; J McPhillips, D Shanahan; K McCall, A McBurney, W Herbst; M Dalton, A O’Connor (capt); G Jones, S Reidy, N Timoney.

Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, T O’Toole, C Montgomery, C Ross, J Stewart, B Houston, P Nelson.