The Ulster ‘A’ team has been named for Sunday’s trip to Irish Independent Park in Cork to take on provincial rivals Munster ‘A’ in the quarter-final of the British & Irish Cup (kick-off 3pm).
Mark Best, an ever-present throughout this season’s campaign, will captain the side from inside centre where he is joined by Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy player Jack Owens, who recently earned his first Ulster senior cap in the bonus point win over Glasgow Warriors.
David Busby and Aaron Cairns, another two Academy players who have made their senior debuts this season, will start at full-back and on the right wing respectively. Conor Kelly completes the back-three.
Dave Shanahan and Brett Herron will form the half-back partnership, having already successfully paired up for pool wins over Jersey Reds and the Cardiff Blues Premiership Select.
Tommy O’Hagan, the man-of-the-match in the round 5 victory over London Scottish, returns at loosehead prop having missed the final round in Jersey due to injury. Ricky Lutton, with 57 senior caps, adds considerable experience at tighthead, while Jonny Murphy completes the front row.
Peter Browne, who has started 10 senior games this season, is selected alongside Queen’s University captain Alex Thompson in the second row.
In the back row, Conor Joyce who, like Best, makes his seventh consecutive start, is joined by Ireland Sevens international Nick Timoney and Matthew Rea.
Zack McCall, Ross Kane, John Donnan and Conall Boomer make up the forward replacements, while Andrew Magrath, Mark Keane and Josh Jordan provide the back-line cover.
Sunday’s encounter will mark the Ulster ‘A’ team’s first appearance in the B&I Cup knockout stages since 2012, when they also faced the same opposition. Munster ‘A’ won that game 20-9 before going on to win the competition.
ULSTER ‘A’ (v Munster ‘A’): David Busby; Aaron Cairns, Jack Owens, Mark Best (capt), Conor Kelly; Brett Herron, Dave Shanahan; Tommy O’Hagan, Jonny Murphy, Ricky Lutton, Peter Browne, Alex Thompson, Nick Timoney, Conor Joyce, Matthew Rea.
Replacements: Zack McCall, Ross Kane, John Donnan, Conall Boomer, Andrew Magrath, Mark Keane, Josh Jordan.