Ulster’s failure to do themselves justice in last season’s Pro14 semi-final gives them motivation to be more competitive against Edinburgh on Saturday, says coach Dan McFarland.
“Last year’s semi-final was very disappointing. We want to give it a better shot this time, put in a better performance,” said McFarland.
“There’s a hunger in the squad that we want to give it our best shot.”
He added: “While we didn’t play as well as we could have done that day we were beaten by a Glasgow side who were excellent in that game. I don’t know if we would have won even if we had been at our best.
“The task in front of us is a difficult one as away sides have won only twice in Pro14 semi-finals, the Scarlets on both occasions, so we know the difficulty of what lies ahead of us.”
Ulster go into this weekend’s last-four encounter at Murrayfield on the back of interprovincial defeats by Connacht and Leinster in Dublin, having already qualified for the semi-finals by virtue of finishing second in Conference A.
“It’s odd in the sense that we are not going into such an important match at the end of a string of games but it’s a reward for all the work we have put in to get us into the position where we have a semi-final to play,” said the Ulster head coach.
“We experienced reaching this position last year after winning a home quarter-final [21-13 over Connacht] and we want to have another go at it.
“It’s a pretty unique season but we’re relishing the opportunity we have carved out for ourselves.
“The effort, spirit and attitude we showed at the weekend against Leinster were of the kind that saw us take second in our conference but the thing we didn’t see was accuracy – unforced turnovers and some silly penalties given away which meant we couldn’t sustain any pressure in the game.”
John Cooney will line up alongside Burns in the half-back positions. The front row is unchanged from the game against Leinster, with Rob Herring retaining his starting berth at hooker, as well as Eric O’Sullivan and Tom O’Toole at loosehead and tighthead props respectively.
O’Connor is the only change to the pack and comes in to join Sam Carter in the second row. Matthew Rea and Jordi Murphy have been named as the flankers with Marcell Coetzee packing down at number eight.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham; Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally (capt), WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Pierre Schoeman, Simon Berghan, Andrew Davidson, Jamie Ritchie, Charlie Shiel, Nathan Chamberlain, George Taylor.
Ulster: Jacob Stockdale; Louis Ludik, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle; Billy Burns (capt), John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter, Matthew Rea, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Michael Lowry.