Michael Bradley is ‘excited’ to see how his stand-ins perform
HEADING into a match against the league leaders without leading Scotland internationals, and 17 players in all, might appear a doom-laden scenario for Edinburgh supporters but head coach Michael Bradley is hopeful that tonight’s Ravenhill clash could provide the start of a turnaround in fortunes.
He is missing nine players to injury, almost all of whom are regular starters, and another eight players are being rested for Scotland duty, or, in the case of Greig Laidlaw and Geoff Cross, being given more time to recover from injury. Lee Jones has been released to play by Scotland and prop Allan Jacobsen is also on the bench in an effort to give him game-time in the second half to test his recent hamstring problem with a view to him being fit for the Scotland bench against the All Blacks a week on Sunday. Young lock Robert McAlpine joins Grant Gilchrist in the second row with skipper Sean Cox moving to flanker.
Curiously, this is where Edinburgh’s new-found strength in depth might bring a greater boost than it has done in the league results so far. Bradley said: “We do have to turn the ship around, so the guys are very focused for the match against Ulster. It’s a great fixture for us in a way because they’re undefeated, and are playing at home but there is disruption to their side as well. On reflection, from last year, one of the areas that we felt we needed a major improvement in was this period, when the internationalists are away. If you look at the side we are putting out, and we have a number of injuries, it’s a strong side so it’s actually quite exciting as to how the boys will perform.
“With the Ospreys and Connacht coming up after this match, we’re calling this a mini-series to see how this group of players get on. We’re in a much better situation now than we were last year.”
Ulster have spent significant amounts of money on players and boast arguably the strongest squad in the RaboDirect PRO12, and this is where they are looking to stretch their lead at the top, while rivals are short of quality. Ulster have made nine changes to the side that won away to the Dragons last weekend, including seven of the pack. They hand a first start to full-back Ricky Andrew and include 18-stone development prop Ricky Lutton a first place on the bench, but also include internationalists Craig Gilroy, Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace, Roger Wilson and Paul Marshall, alongside their foreign stars, notably Springbok scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and John Afoa, the All Blacks prop.
But, according to one of Edinburgh’s newcomers, James King, who is making his first start of the season after playing largely for draft club Gala, the opportunity this presents to fringe players could manifest itself in improved displays. “There are a lot of new guys coming in this week but that can be a good thing, because the guys are keen and hopefully we can show what the team has been missing,” he said.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West