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Dan Sheridan/INPHO Centre of attention: Hume has become a key part of Ulster's team.
# Middle Class
Ulster backline beginning to deliver for Peel and McFarland
The emergence of James Hume and Stewart Moore has added depth and class to Ulster’s midfield.

SLOWLY BUT SURELY the walking wounded are returning to Ulster with Friday seeing Luke Marshall train for the first time since he was struck down with a hip injury. There was also the welcoming sight of a fully recovered Billy Burns on the training paddock.

Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune remain long-term absentees, Stuart McCloskey a temporary one during this international window. “Whenever we have everyone we will have a good unit,” said Dwayne Peel, Ulster’s backs coach.

You could argue they already have one given how speedily Ian Madigan has been integrated into the fold and how rapidly Stewart Moore and James Hume have developed, all ready for today’s game against Dragons [KO 3pm, eir Sport]..

“James is someone who has been bubbling away,” Peel said.

“Last year, that nasty knee injury really wrecked his season which was tough for him but he’s been in good form. It’s good for him to have had those high-profile games and he’s flourishing, he’s really enjoying it. His application is good, he trains hard and he wants to get better every day.

“With Stewart, he’s been great. He’s a very different style to all of our other centres; he’s a genuine footballer, he sees space and he plays the ball that way.

“They complement each other and I’m pleased for them. They’ve both had to bide their time because Stu McCloskey and Lukey probably had the lion’s share of selections over the last while and they’ve been working hard in the background. They’re getting the reward now.

“Any depth that we can build in that position is good, and even for the likes of Stu (McCloskey) and Lukey, it’s good for them to be pushed hard. We’re still missing a lot of backs but Stewart, James, Mike Lowry, those are guys we feel are ready to step up and take those opportunities and that’s all we can ask for really.

“The boys are working hard and they want to get better, and that’s all you can ask for really. They’re all striving and they’re all pushing each other. They all want to play and that’s obviously important.”

Today’s game against Dragons in a way seems unimportant but in truth is actually vital. These are the wins Ulster need if they are to get a home draw in the Pro14 knock-outs.

And it should happen. Dragons are improving but not as much as Ulster are. Victory should be there for the hosts.

Ulster (v Dragons):

15. Rob Lyttle
14. Matt Faddes
13. James Hume
12. Stewart Moore
11. Louis Ludik
10. Ian Madigan
9. John Cooney

1. Eric O’Sullivan
2. John Andrew
3. Marty Moore
4. Alan O’Connor
5. Sam Carter (captain)
6. Sean Reidy
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Marcell Coetzee

Replacements: 

16. Adam McBurney
17. Kyle McCall
18. Ross Kane
19. Kieran Treadwell
20. Nick Timoney
21. David Shanahan
22. Bill Johnston
23, Michael Lowry

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Dragons:

15. Jonah Holmes
14. Jared Rosser
13. Adam Warren
12. Jack Dixon
11. Ashton Hewitt
10. Sam Davies
9. Rhodri Williams (captain)

1. Greg Bateman
2. Richard Hibbard
3. Lloyd Fairbrother
4. Joe Davies
5. Matthew Screech
6. Harrison Keddie
7. Taine Basham
8. Ollie Griffiths

Replacements: 

16. Ellis Shipp
17. Brok Harris
18. Chris Coleman
19. Joe Maksymiw
20. Ben Fry
21. Tavis Knoyle
22. Arwel Robson
23. Jamie Roberts

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi [FIR].

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