Les Kiss has named an exciting squad for Ulster’s pre-season trip to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday (Sandy Park, kick-off 3pm). The fixture will give Kiss an opportunity to assess some of his more experienced players, along with some Hughes Insurance Academy graduates.
The Ulster management will also be keeping a close eye on the opposition, having been drawn against Rob Baxter’s side in the European Champions Cup.
Rob Herring, who will share the captaincy with Andrew Trimble this season, will lead the team from hooker. Rodney Ah You will start for the province for the first time at tighthead prop, with Callum Black joining them in the front row.
Peter Browne and Franco van der Merwe, who formed an effective partnership during the GUINNESS PRO12 run-in last season, will combine in the second row, and Robbie Diack, Clive Ross and Roger Wilson will occupy the loose forward positions.
Brett Herron, an impressive debutant in last week’s game against Leinster, is selected as Ruan Pienaar’s half-back partner. The Ireland-capped duo of Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave will start in midfield, with Louis Ludik and Ireland Under-20 star Jacob Stockdale named on the wings. Full-back Charles Piutau completes the starting line-up and he will make his debut after arriving in the summer.
Kieran Treadwell, also a newcomer to the squad in the off-season, could play for the province for the first time after being named among the replacements. Front row players John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Andrew Warwick and Jonny Simpson are included on the bench, along with fellow forwards Alan O’Connor, Matthew Rea and Stephen Mulholland.
Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Sam Windsor, Mark Best, David Busby and Robert Lyttle will provide cover for the backs.
Following Exeter’s comprehensive 45-3 home win over the Scarlets last weekend, Kiss is wary of the threat posed by the English side, particularly at Sandy Park.
“They were very impressive last week,” said Kiss. “They fielded a very strong team against the Scarlets and delivered a very clinical performance. Exeter has built something special over the past few years and are now rightly considered to be one of the best teams in Europe.
“They are well-organised and have quality throughout their side, so it will be a big challenge for us, but one that we’re excited about.
“Our entire squad has worked hard over pre-season, which has been pleasing for us as a coaching group. We had a good hit-out last week against Leinster and produced some very promising things, particularly for the first 70 minutes. This will give us another chance to test combinations and see how the guys can perform against very tough opposition.”
ULSTER (v Exeter Chiefs): Charles Piutau; Louis Ludik, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Brett Herron, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rob Herring (capt), Rodney Ah You, Peter Browne, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Clive Ross, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Andrew Warwick, Jonny Simpson, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Matthew Rea, Stephen Mulholland, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Sam Windsor, Mark Best, David Busby, Robert Lyttle.