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Aironi Rugby made an impressive start to their first ever Magners League campaign with a good performance against Munster last weekend - despite losing 33-17 in Cork, the Italian outfit still managed to lay down a marker.

Ulster travel to face Franco Bernini's side in Viadana this weekend and the province's coach Brian McLaughlin has made five changes in personnel to the team that beat the Ospreys 27-26 in a hard-fought league opener at Ravenhill.

Up front, there are four changes of personnel and one positional switch. Tom Court and Chris Henry make their first Ulster starts having toured with Ireland in the summer, while Rory Best and Stephen Ferris are rested as part of the IRFU's player management programme.

Court comes into the front row at the expense of Bryan Young who drops to the replacements bench, while Nigel Brady assumes the hooker role ahead of Andi Kyriacou.

The second row pairing of Johann Muller, who will captain the side, and Tim Barker is unchanged.

In the back row, Pedrie Wannenburg moves from number 8 to the blindside flank to cover for the rested Ferris, Willie Faloon reverts to the bench to make way for Henry at openside and Robbie Diack, a replacement against the Ospreys, starts this time at number 8.

Amongst the backs, McLaughlin has kept faith with is young back three of Adam D'Arcy, Tommy Seymour and David McIlwaine, while Darren Cave has a new centre partner in Paddy Wallace, another Ireland summer tourist making his first start of the campaign.

Jamie Smith is a welcome inclusion on the province's bench, having recovered from the eye injury he sustained in the opening pre-season friendly against Bath recently.

Ulster out-half Niall O'Connor, who kicked 17 points against the Ospreys, is expecitng a tough challenge from Aironi.

"It's certainly going to be a tough game, they have a hugely physical pack, they have a big midfield and of course (Ludovic) Mercier at number 10 has been around a long time and has a wealth of experience from the Premiership," he said.

"We are under no illusions. We're expecting a very tough game but hopefully we can go there and get the job done."

Live coverage of Saturday's game will be available to view on the BBC Northern Ireland Sport website - www.bbc.co.uk/nisport.

ULSTER (v Aironi Rugby): Adam D'Arcy; Tommy Seymour, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, David McIlwaine; Niall O'Connor, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Tim Barker, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Bryan Young, Paddy McAllister, Ryan Caldwell, Willie Faloon, Ian Porter, Ian Whitten, Jamie Smith.

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19 June 2018
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