Rugby Union

Andrew Trimble returns to the starting line-up for Ulster's visit to Munster

Andrew Trimble says Ulster face three 'cup finals' in their bid to make the top four of the Guinness PRO12
By John Flack

Guinness PRo12: Munster v Ulster (Saturday, 3pm, Sky Sports 2)

ANDREW Trimble returns to the Ulster starting line-up for Saturday afternoon’s crucial PRO12 clash with Munster at Thomond Park after coming off the bench in last week’s disappointing draw with the Cardiff Blues at the Kingspan Stadium.

The return of the Ireland winger, who has recovered from a hand injury, is one of just three changes to the side that played last week, with Jakob Stockdale taking over at

full-back from the injured Jared Payne and Chris Henry returning to the pack.

Trimble says that while consistency of performance has been an issue in recent seasons, one big display this afternoon is what is required against a Munster side that will be without injured internationals, Connor Murray and CJ Stander.

Unlike Ulster, Munster have other fish to fry this season with Saracens due to visit the Aviva Stadium for a European Champions Cup semi-final next week.

Trimble’s side are currently on a seven-game unbeaten run but last week’s 24-24 draw with Cardiff saw them slip out of the top-four and they now have a real battle on their hands to make the play-offs, with two tough games to come after today’s visit to Limerick.

“This is the last chance and we’ve got three cup finals between now and the end of the season with Ospreys and Leinster after Munster.” said the Ulster co-captain.

“We have to show how good we can be because we still believe it; a lot of people don’t believe it but that’s because we haven’t proved it, so that’s fair enough.

“Public opinion will suggest we can’t go to Thomond Park and win but we believe we can; it will be a test of our character and I think it’ll bring the best out of us.

“I think we’re good enough for a top-four finish but I don’t think we’ve performed at that level for long periods of the season; we haven’t produced the consistency that’s required.

“We know we can produce a big performance but we just don’t have the consistency; it’s something we need to address but this weekend, we just need a big one-off performance and the boys are up for it.

“There were a few words said this week but to be honest very little needed to be said because when you’re playing Munster at Thomond Park you’re naturally up for producing a big one.”

Although he has been on a winning Ulster side at today’s venue before, Trimble realises how difficult a task it will be against a Munster side that has won 22 of its 26 games this season.

“We’ve got a small bit of joy, but generally you go down there and encounter a very physical 15; we all know how big a challenge it is - it’s an intimidating environment and you have to get yourself ready for it.” he added.

“If you don’t match what they bring to the table, you’ll be kicked out of the gate; you have to play out of your skin to get a win.

“We have the right respect for the opposition but we also know what we’re capable of.

“We just have to be tough out there and produce a big performance, because there’s no other option.”

Meanwhile Leinster will field a weakened side for the trip to Galway to face Connacht tonight.

They have made no fewer than 11 changes from their last outing with international quartet of Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbery, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose among the players rested.

Connacht captain John Muldoon will play his 300th game for the province when he lines out against the league leaders.

“Leinster are flying high at the top of the PRO12 table as well as in Europe but we really looking forward to this game and the chance to put in a huge performance for ourselves, for our supporters and for John Muldoon on a special day for him.” said Connacht coach Pat Lam.

Ulster: J Stockdale; A Trimble (capt.), L Marshall, S Olding, C Piutau; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Best, W Herbst; K Treadwell, A O’Connor; I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy; Replacements: R Herring, C Black, R Ah You, R Diack, C Ross, P Marshall, S McCloskey, C Gilroy

Friday: Glasgow 45 Zebre 10

Saturday: Cardiff Blues Ospreys (2.45pm), Munster v Ulster (3pm), Dragons v Scarlets (5.15pm), Connacht v Leinster (7.35pm), Treviso v Edinburgh (8.05pm)

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