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Ulster v Glasgow: Teams
At Ravenhill, Friday August 31, kick off 7.05pm (BST)
Gregor Townsend has named his first RaboDirect PRO12 side as Glasgow Warriors head coach for their clash with Ulster on Friday.
Glasgow are determined to build on the positive form the side showed last term in reaching the semi-finals for the second time in three years.
Their season opener at Ravenhill pits them against a team who made the Heineken Cup final three short months ago.
But the Warriors travel with confidence, having won five of their last six regular-season PRO12 games and after beating Ulster the last time they clashed, at Firhill in November.
Townsend's selection for the game sees him back a core of players who contributed heavily to the club's consistent form last season.
Henry Pyrgos and Duncan Weir team up in a lively half-back pairing, with experience behind the scrum provided by the Warriors most capped ever player, centre Graeme Morrison.
Sean Lamont returns at wing while, with Stuart Hogg nursing an ankle injury, Peter Murchie gets the opportunity to reprise his excellent 2012/13 showings at full-back.
And Tommy Seymour is rewarded for his productive shifts in the pre-season games against Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs with a start at the home of his former club.
Up front, Gordon Reid, Finlay Gillies and Mike Cusack team up in the front-row, with the back-row seeing a welcome return of Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Ryan Wilson that served the Warriors so well for much of the campaign before the number eight suffered an untimely knee injury.
"All the players and coaches are massively excited about the season getting underway and the opportunity it brings to reap the benefits of the hard work everyone has put in over the past three months," Townsend said.
"Playing Ulster away from home in a passionate environment like Ravenhill is certainly a big challenge, but one that the players will find inspiring rather than intimidating.
"We haven't won there for almost three years, but we only need look at results and performances like the win over Leinster at the RDS last season to know we have the ability and mentality to do the business when it counts away from home.
"It's a very tough opening assignment, but we have confidence in each other and in how we want to play."
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has handed competitive debuts to Sean Doyle, Nick Williams, Rob Herring and Michael Heaney for Friday's clash.
Doyle and Williams will be joined in the back-row by Robbie Diack, while Johann Muller continues as skipper in the engine room alongside Lewis Stevenson.
In the front-row, Irish qualified South African hooker Herring is joined by props Callum Black and John Afoa.
Heaney will start at scrum-half where he is partnered by Paddy Jackson at number 10, while Luke Marshall and Chris Farrell will form an all new centre partnership.
Right wing Michael Allen will make only his second ever appearance for the province and Craig Gilroy will play on the other flank.
The back-three is completed by full-back Jared Payne who will play his first PRO12 game in almost a year since rupturing his Achilles tendon against Cardiff.
Anscombe, taking charge of his first competitive game with Ulster, is expecting a tough challenge from the travelling Scots.
"They have named a strong side as we expected and they will provide a formidable test," he said. "They have brought a few Internationals into the starting line-up and have another couple on the bench.
"We have a strong bench too but we will see how the game pans out. Our Internationals on the bench haven't played much rugby or had much contact but if we need to use them we will.
"I'm really excited about this game, hopefully we can start the season off with a good win."
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Michael Allen, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Tom Court, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Niall O'Connor, 23 Darren Cave
Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (capt), 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Finlay Gillies, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Ryan Grant, 19 James Eddie, 20 John Barclay, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Peter Horne
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Saturday 20th September|
|Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton Treviso|
|Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 Glasgow|
|Friday 19th September|
|Connacht 10 - 9 Leinster|
|Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 Ulster|
|Munster 31 - 5 Zebre|
|Sunday 14th September|
|Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 Glasgow|
|Saturday 13th September|
|Leinster 42 - 12 Scarlets|
|Friday 12th September|
|Ulster 33 - 13 Zebre|
|Edinburgh 13 - 14 Connacht|
|Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys|
|Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 Munster|
|Sunday 7th September|
|Zebre 26 - 41 Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 6th September|
|Glasgow 22 - 20 Leinster|
|Connacht 16 - 11 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Scarlets 32 - 32 Ulster|
|Friday 5th September|
|Munster 13 - 14 Edinburgh|
|Ospreys 44 - 13 Benetton Treviso|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com