Ulster vs Dragons preview

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Pienaar in the side as Ross Kane, Charles Piutau and Brett Herron are to make their competitive debuts

Ulster haven't won the Pro-12 since 2005 when David Humphrey's 40-yard drop goal took the title back to Belfast.  So the Ulstermen will hope to get off to a good start to rectify that.  The Dragons visit Kingspan on Friday night and Ulster know they'll have to be at their best to dispatch the Welsh side.

Several players will make their first competitive start on Friday the likes of new Fly-half Brett Herron will be excited to get out on to the pitch.  "Everyone's going to put their best performance in" said Herron "I think everyone's just excited as well to be a part of such a good squad".

Fly-Half Brett Herron:

Meanwhile Charles Piutau enjoyed his first experience at Kingspan last week in a friendly with Northampton Saints.  The All-Black scored one try and set up another two in a 29-19 win.  And Piutau said he was impressed with the atmosphere at Kingspan.  "I don't know how it feels for the opposite team but it must be pretty daunting" said Piutau.  If the Kiwi puts on a similar peformance this Friday, the the Dragons are in for a long night.

Charles Piutau:

Director of Rugby Les Kiss has overseen a busy pre-season and he'll be hoping that Ulster will be adequately prepared for their opponents.  Kiss said that it si all about "getting the right things right".  He added that he hopes to build some early momentum, so that Ulster can get through Christmas and then be well placed going into the business end of the season.  

Director of Rugby Les Kiss:

Piutau and Herron will join Ross Kane in making a first competitive appearance for the side, while Ruan Pienaar starts at Scrum-half. The South-African's selection comes a day after finding out he wont be an Ulster player next season.  Ireland internationals Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Sean Reidy return to the team for the first time this season, although new signing Rodney Ah You is unavailable.

Kane is joined in the front row by Callum Black and Rob Herring, who will again captain the side from hooker.  In the second row, Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe keep their places,while the inclusion of Reidy sees Clive Ross move to blindside flanker.  Roger Wilson continues at number 8.  

Herron will partner Ruan Pienaar at half back, while Stuart McCloskey and Stuart Olding make up the midfield. Piutau, Gilroy and Ireland U20 international Jacob Stockdale occupy the back three positions. Louis Ludik was unavailable for selection because of a hand injury picked up against Northampton.

Kickoff is at 7:45pm

Ulster Squad to Play Dragons


C Piutau; C Gilroy, S Olding, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Herron, R Pienaar;


 C Black, R Herring (captain), R Kane, P Browne, F van der Merwe, C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson;


J Andrew, K McCall, A Warwick, A O'Connor, R Diack, P Marshall, S Windsor, R Lyttle.

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