Christian Lealiifano is set to make his first Ulster appearance on Friday in the historic GUINNESS PRO14 opener against the Toyota Cheetahs at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).
Fellow summer signings Jean Deysel and John Cooney will also make their competitive debuts for the oprovince, having both lined out during the pre-season encounters with Wasps and Northampton Saints.
Friday’s match will mark a momentous chapter in the history of the PRO14 Championship, as Southern Hemisphere sides join the competition for the first time, with the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs making their maiden trip to Belfast.
A limited number of tickets are still available for Friday’s eagerly-awaited round 1 game, priced from just £17 for adults and £12 for juniors. For more information visit www.ulsterrugby.com/buytickets.
Cooney and Christian Lealiifano will have their first chance to form an exciting new half-back partnership, while Stuart McCloskey and Tommy Bowe link up together in midfield. Louis Ludik, Andrew Trimble and Charles Piutau also combine in an experienced back-three.
Chris Henry will captain the side from openside flanker, in what is an abrasive looking back row with the South African duo of Deysel and Marcell Coetzee at blindside and number 8 respectively.
The front five is made up of Kyle McCall, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row, with Robbie Diack and Alan O’Connor lining out together again in the second row.
Back rower Matthew Rea could earn his first Ulster cap, as he is included in the replacements along with fellow forwards John Andrew, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You and Sean Reidy. David Shanahan, Peter Nelson and Darren Cave will provide the back-line cover from the bench. Unfortunately, Craig Gilroy has a stress fracture in his lower back and is expected to be out of action until late November.
ULSTER (v Toyota Cheetahs): Charles Piutau; Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik; Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney; Kyle McCall, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Robbie Diack, Alan O’Connor, Jean Deysel, Chris Henry (capt), Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Peter Nelson, Darren Cave.