Ulster ‘A’ head coach Alex Codling has made seven changes and two positional switches to the team that lost to Leinster last month, for Friday’s opening British & Irish Cup match against Bristol at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm).
An all-new back three includes Jonny McPhillips at full-back, with Rodger McBurney and Ireland Under-18 Schools international Robert Lyttle on the wings. Paul Rowley and Sam Windsor are retained as the province’s starting half-backs and Mark Best and Callum Patterson continue their centre partnership.
Up front, Ruaidhri Murphy replaces Kyle McCall at loosehead prop, John Andrew comes in at hooker and Bronson Ross is retained on the tighthead side.
Alan O’Connor and Pete Browne join forces in the second row, while captain Willie Faloon will feature at openside flanker alongside back row colleagues Clive Ross and Stephen Mulholland, who made his senior bow against the Dragons last Sunday.
Johnny Murphy is named as a front row replacement alongside Michael Lagan and Jonny Simpson. Alex Thompson and Conor Joyce are included as the other forward replacements, and new additions to the squad, Ireland Under-19 internationals Liam Free and Andrew Magrath, will act as back-line cover.
Speaking ahead of the first Pool 2 match, Ulster ‘A’ boss Alex Codling said: “Rugby’s about challenges and Bristol will certainly provide that. They are obviously one of the favourites to go up to the Premiership this year – they did very well last season and narrowly missed out. They’ve always treated this competition very seriously and we’re expecting a really tough challenge.
“We’re hoping that the supporters that aren’t going over to Oyonnax will come along on Friday and push the boys on and see the next generation of Ulster players coming through.
“We’re keen to start off with not only good individual performances but also a good team display on Friday. I think it’s about executing under pressure. If you look at the Connacht and Leinster games, they are friendlies for want of a better word, but this has a tangible outcome in terms of silverware at the end of it.
“It’s a competition that didn’t go as well as we wanted it to last season, so we’re very focused on doing as well as we can and to start off with a bang on Friday. The fact that it’s here at Kingspan Stadium gives the game an extra edge.”
All Ulster Rugby Season Ticket holders can access complimentary tickets for Friday’s B&I Cup encounter at Kingspan Stadium by logging on to their Ulster Rugby Account Manager. Match tickets can be purchased here from Ticketmaster.
Tickets and car parking will also be available on a first come, first served basis via the Mount Merrion Gate.
ULSTER ‘A’ (v Bristol): Jonny McPhillips; Rodger McBurney, Callum Patterson, Mark Best, Robert Lyttle; Sam Windsor, Paul Rowley; Ruaidhri Murphy, John Andrew, Bronson Ross, Alan O’Connor, Pete Browne, Clive Ross, Willie Faloon (capt), Stephen Mulholland.
Replacements: Johnny Murphy, Michael Lagan, Jonny Simpson, Alex Thompson, Conor Joyce, Liam Free, Andrew Magrath.