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Cooney And Deysel Set For First Ulster Starts

Cooney And Deysel Set For First Ulster Starts

Scrum half John Cooney, who joined from Connacht during the off-season, will make his first appearance for Ulster in Friday’s pre-season trip to play Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 7.30pm).

Fellow summer signing Jean Deysel will also make his first start for the Ulstermen, following an appearance off the bench during last week’s opening hit-out against Wasps. Marcell Coetzee, who is part of an extended replacements list for tomorrow, is in line to make his return from a knee injury sustained in March.

Peter Nelson will partner debutant John Cooney at half-back, in what is a potent looking back-line. David Busby joins Louis Ludik and Charles Piutau in the back-three, while Tommy Bowe will form a midfield partnership with Stuart McCloskey.

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Speaking about Bowe switching from the wing to centre and his pre-season form, Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss said: “I’m really happy to see where Tommy is. Probably the real difficult times (through injury) last season were when he seemed to be there but wasn’t quite there. He’s certainly got a real purpose out him this year. He looks more comfortable. I like the way way he looks.

“We used him at 13 (against Wasps) last week and we’ll use him again at 13 this week (in Northampton) and see how it goes there. It’s going to be good…try to build that flexibility with him there again. He’s in a good place.

“He has not (played there for a while) but he’s enjoying playing there – on the wing and then centre as well. He’s done session, on session, on session. He has trained at wing and centre. He has a natural leadership ability and he is a statesman in the place now. A good, wise head for the young lads around him and I’m really happy with how he’s been going.”

Up front, former Munster player Deysel will line out at number 8, combining with Clive Ross and Chris Henry in the back row. Robbie Diack and Alan O’Connor are paired together in the engine room, with Callum Black, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herst all starting in the front row.

Meanwhile, Australian international Christian Lealiifano arrived in Belfast yesterday and said he is excited by the challenge ahead with Ulster over the next five months.
The out-half was diagnosed with leukaemia a year ago and he has since undertaken the necessary treatment. He made a remarkable return to action for the Brumbies in June and is now looking forward to training with Kiss’ men and exploring Belfast. He is in contention to play against the Toyota Cheetahs in Friday week’s GUINNESS PRO14 opener at Kingspan Stadium.

ULSTER (v Northampton Saints): Charles Piutau; Louis Ludik, Tommy Bowe, Stuart McCloskey, David Busby; Peter Nelson, John Cooney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Robbie Diack, Alan O’Connor, Clive Ross, Chris Henry, Jean Deysel.

Replacements: Zack McCall, Kyle McCall, Rodney Ah You, Peter Browne, Marcell Coetzee, David Shanahan, Brett Herron, Andrew Trimble, Andrew Warwick, Jonny Simpson, Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Caleb Montgomery, Paul Marshall, Jack Owens, Johnny McPhillips, Callum Patterson.