Rugby Union

Ulster's Marcell Coetzee back for Harlequins clash

Ulster Rugby's Marcell Coetzee (centre) is tackled down by Clermont Auvergne's Jake McIntyre during a Heineken Champions Cup Round 2 match at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast.

ULSTER head coach Dan McFarland has named a strong side for tonight's crucial Champions Cup clash with Harlequins at The Stoop.

Influential back-row forward Marcell Coetzee has been included after recovering from the ankle injury which forced him off during the 25-24 win over the Londoners last week.

McFarland has made just two changes to his starting line-up with Kieran Treadwell preferred at lock to Alan O'Connor and Kiwi Matt Faddes replacing Craig Gilroy on the wing.

However, Harlequins clearly have one eye on next weekend's Premiership game with Wasps as they have rested several front-line players although they are still mathematically not out of contention for a European knock-out place.

Captain Chris Robshaw, who had a superb game up front on Saturday at Kingspan Stadium, along with his fellow England internationals Joe Marler and Danny Care were among those listed as 'not considered.'

In the absence of Care, Quins new half-back pairing includes former Ulster player Brett Herron, who made a handful of appearances for the province in the 2015/16 season.

Herron will be in direct opposition to Billy Burns, who has plenty of experience of playing at The Stoop from his Gloucester days, having made 100 appearances in the Premiership.

The fly-half is in no doubt about the magnitude of the task that lies ahead if Ulster are to make it four wins from four in Europe this season.

McFarland's men rode their luck in what was a patchy performance on Saturday and had to rely on John Cooney's 78th minute penalty to secure the win.

"I had the luxury of playing there with Gloucester and I know how tough a place it is to go," said Burns.

"They'll be disappointed with their form there this season. It's a typical saying but in the Champions Cup if you go anywhere, it's hard to get a result.

"We know there'll definitely have to be a big improvement on our performance from the weekend.

"Although we got the result, there were parts of our performance that we weren't happy with.

"If we want to go there and not only compete but come away with four or five points then we're going to have to improve but we're excited by the challenge although it's a huge one in front of us.

Burns set up Ulster's opening try for Sean Reidy last week and has perfected the skill of cross-kicking this season.

Naturally, he is hoping that it will be a potent weapon in the return fixture but he also rates Harlequins all round game highly, kicking included, based on last week's game.

"We knew they'd be organised, we knew they'd have a lot of numbers in the front line and they'd be making big collisions," Burns added.

"Not just cross-field kicks, but there were box-kicks we hit and a couple of long kicks that I hit myself just to turn them, because it's so hard to break teams down, not because of poor attack but just because of really good defence.

"So it does help when a team is blitzing you a little bit because it doesn't give them time to turn and get back to the ball.

"But I'm sure they'll have looked at that from the weekend and have been disappointed to concede three tries, and I'm sure they'll have that covered this week."

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Rugby Union