EDINBURGH head coach Alan Solomons is eagerly anticipating his return to the Ravenhill ground he called home a decade ago, but admits that leaving with maximum points would be the perfect gift on his side’s return to RaboDirect Pro12 action.
The capital club raised morale with back-to-back wins over Italians Treviso and Zebre before the international break, following on from the Heineken Cup win over Munster, and it also raised the team up the table to ninth, with fourth-placed Leinster and the play-offs now ten points in the distance.
“I’m certainly looking forward to going back to Ravenhill,” he said. “I’ve got very fond memories of Ulster and haven’t been there for a number of years, so I’m really looking forward to it.
“Away fixtures in the Pro12 are always tough and Ulster are a side that have been built over 10 or 12 years to become one of the top sides in Europe. They were in the Pro12 final last year, the Heineken Cup final the year before that and have ambitions to win these competitions.
“We are a side that is rebuilding and are at a different place at this point so, for me, this is going to be a really tough fixture, but it presents these players with an opportunity to build on their performance against Zebre in a tougher fixture, against a highly-ranked side at a tough venue.”
Solomons has made two changes to the side that last played, lock Ollie Atkins handed his first start in the place of Scotland call-up Grant Gilchrist, while scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne comes in for the injured Sean Kennedy (knee) and Grayson Hart comes on to the bench primed for his debut. Another Scottish-qualified signing from Australia, lock Ben Toolis, could also make his debut with a replacement appearance, while Tom Brown returns to the squad for the first time since injuring his ankle in the pre-season clash with Newcastle in August.
Ireland internationalists Craig Gilroy and Iain Henderson are back from injury for Ulster and Luke Marshall and Darren Cave have been released by Ireland. With John Afoa, new skipper Robbie Diack and Nick Williams in the pack, and Test caps Tom Court, Dan Tuohy and Roger Wilson on the bench, they will pose a potent test.