Match Preview | Ulster
It might be a brand-new competition, but a highly familiar foe awaits Glasgow Warriors in the opening round of the United Rugby Championship this weekend as they take on Ulster in Belfast.
With the Kingspan Stadium having developed into one of the toughest away tests in the northern hemisphere, the new URC calendar arguably threw Danny Wilson’s men one of their most challenging assignments right off the bat, as all 16 teams in the competition look to start their season on the right note.
Led by former Glasgow and Scotland Assistant Coach Dan McFarland, the Ulstermen go into the season hoping to snap a major honours drought that stretches back to the 2005/06 season and buoyed by the recent announcement that South African number eight Duane Vermuelen will join the province later this season.
So, what should you know ahead of Friday night’s clash?
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The current bragging rights lie with Ulster, after the men from the Kingspan did the double over the Warriors in a disjointed 2020/21 campaign.
Having taken victory in Belfast back in November 2020, McFarland’s side then edged a closely-fought affair at Scotstoun by 19-13 in February this year.
A Michael Lowry try on the stroke of half-time, coupled with second-half scores from Craig Gilroy and Nick Timoney, saw Ulster hold on for the victory, despite Aki Seiuli’s late try and the boot of Ross Thompson.
Ones to Watch
Whilst World Cup winner Vermeulen is undoubtedly the marquee acquisition by the province for the new campaign, another back-rower has been turning heads in the competition for the past couple of seasons. With a blend of pace and power from the base of the scrum, expect Timoney to figure prominently for McFarland’s side over the 2021/22 campaign.
Having enjoyed a breakout campaign himself in 2020/21, James Hume is now a key member of the Ulster backline. Capable of playing at either inside or outside centre, the Belfast-born midfielder saw his form for Ulster rewarded with a senior Ireland debut in their summer victory over the USA.
Will Addison has enjoyed a torrid run of luck with injury since arriving from Sale Sharks in 2018, but comes into the 2021/22 season fit and firing. Usually deployed at full-back, the 29-year-old is also comfortable in the centres and possesses an intelligent all-around game.
Success for Glasgow Warriors against Ulster in Belfast has been hard to come by over the years, with Danny Wilson’s team winless on the road against Friday’s hosts since September 2013.
On that occasion, James Eddie was the hero in Glasgow colours, crashing over next to the posts with the final play of the match to secure a 13-12 win with the assistance of Stuart Hogg’s conversion.
Only one Warrior remains from that night in Belfast, with Rob Harley having started on the blindside flank – the Warrior Nation will be hoping that a new group is able to follow in the 2013/14 side’s footsteps this weekend.
Ben Whitehouse will be the man in the middle for Friday night’s clash, as the Welshman takes charge of his 75th match in the competition.
Peter Martin and Andrew Cole will be his assistants under the Kingspan’s floodlights, with Ian Davies on hand as the Television Match Official if and when required.
Friday’s match will be live on Premier Sports 1 and URC TV (dependent on location), with kick-off scheduled for 7.35pm.
You can also follow all the build-up and action as it happens in our Live Match Centre – head to glasgowwarriors.org from roughly an hour before kick-off for all the updates.