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RaboDirect Pro12: Ulster v Ospreys preview
- Tight win sees Ulster second
- Scarlets win in Treviso
- Munster crush hapless Blues
- Glasgow breeze past Connacht
- Leinster reverse lapse start
- Warriors on the charge
Darren Cave will start at inside centre for Ulster in the RaboDirect PRO12 clash against Ospreys at Ravenhill on Friday.
Cave played at No 12 for the Irish Wolfhounds in their recent victory over England Saxons and will be partnered in midfield by Jared Payne, who switches from full-back to outside centre as the sides return to RaboDirect Pro action for the first time since early January with third place in the table at stake.
In the back three, Ricky Andrew starts at full-back, Craig Gilroy, who also represented the Wolfhounds, is selected on the left wing and Michael Allen returns to the starting XV on the right.
With Paddy Jackson on international duty, James McKinney is named at fly-half where he will start alongside Ruan Pienaar, who is selected at scrum-half.
In the pack, Tom Court joins Rob Herring, and John Afoa in the front row, Johann Muller partners Lewis Stevenson in the second row and Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle and Roger Wilson form the back row.
Iain Henderson and Luke Marshall have been released by Ireland and are named on the bench. Ireland U20s full-back, Rory Scholes, is also named as a substitute and is in line to make his league debut if called upon.
Ospreys boss Steve Tandy has made changes to his side. In the back-line, there are four changes to the side that beat Sale in the LV= Cup last weekend.
Sam Davies, who played at fly-half against Sale, takes over from Richard Fussell at full-back while Jeff Hassler and Ashley Beck replace Tom Grabham and Matthew Jenkins at right wing and inside centre respectively. Matthew Morgan comes in for Davies at fly-half.
Among the forwards, there are five changes with Joe Bearman and Sam Lewis replacing Dan Baker and Lloyd Evans in the back-row.
The other changes sees Perry Parker making his first start at lock at Rhodri Hughes' expense, while Aaron Jarvis and Duncan Jones are the starting props in place of Dan Suter and Nicky Smith.
"These next four weeks are massive for us in terms of how the rest of the season plays out, and beyond that, in regards to what we are trying to build here for the longer term, whatever the future holds for the Ospreys," said Tandy.
"The last couple of weeks in the LV= Cup have been a valuable experience for us in terms of getting some meaningful game time for some of the next generation of Ospreys, and there is a lot to be pleased about.
"Ravenhill is always a very difficult place to go and play, whatever time of the season you go there, but even more so during the international period.
"They have a strong core that is available to them throughout the season, with some world class overseas players, and that allows them to stay strong during this period.
"It's an example of what can be achieved by union and club working together for the good of the game, certainly.
"We know that it's going to be a challenge for us but we are up for it and looking forward to getting this period of games started."
Ulster: 15 Andrew, 14 Gilroy, 13 Payne, 12 Cave, 11 Allen, 10 McKinney, 9 Pienaar; 1 Court, 2 Herring, 3 Afoa, 4 Muller (capt), 5 Stevenson, 6 Diack, 7 Doyle, 8 Wilson
Replacements: 16 Annett, 17 Black, 18 Lutton, 19 Henderson, 20 Williams, 21 P Marshall, 22 L Marshall, 23 Scholes
Ospreys: 15 Davies, 14 Hassler, 13 Spratt (capt), 12 Beck, 11 Natoga, 10 Morgan, 9 Habberfield; 1 Jones, 2 Baldwin, 3 Jarvis, 4 Peers, 5 Parker, 6 Ardron, 7 Lewis, 8 Bearman
Replacements: 16 Dwyer, 17 Bevington, 18 Suter, 19 Baker, 20 Allen, 21 Tebaldi, 22 Fussell, 23 Walker
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Guinness PRO12 Table
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