Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss has welcomed the return of Ireland internationals Jacob Stockdale, Kieran Treadwell and Luke Marshall for Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO14 match against Benetton Rugby in Treviso (kick-off 6.05pm local time/5.05pm Irish time).
With players continuing to return from representative duty with Ireland and the Lions, plus the ongoing management of playing resources, Les Kiss has made five personnel changes to the matchday 23 that defeated the Toyota Cheetahs in the Championship opener last weekend.
Jacob Stockdale and Kieran Treadwell, who both made their Ireland debuts during the summer tour of the USA and Japan, have been included in the starting XV, while Luke Marshall is also in line to make his first Ulster appearance of the season as he is named among the replacements.
Stockdale is the sole personnel change in the starting back-line that contributed four of the province’s six tries against the Cheetahs, as he comes in to join captain Andrew Trimble and Louis Ludik in the back-three.
Summer signings John Cooney and Christian Lealiifano continue their half-back partnership, while Stuart McCloskey and Tommy Bowe, who both touched down against the South African franchise, are also retained in midfield.
The 21-year-old Treadwell will wear the number five jersey as he combines with Robbie Diack in the second row, with loosehead prop Callum Black coming in alongside Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row.
Ballymena clubman Matthew Rea, who earned his first Ulster cap as a replacement last Friday, is given a start at blindside flanker, with Sean Reidy at openside and Jean Deysel – the man-of-the-match against the Cheetahs – packing down at number 8.
David Shanahan and Peter Nelson provide the back-line cover along with Marshall, while John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Rodney Ah You, Peter Browne and Chris Henry make up the forward options on the bench. Paul Marshall has been unavailable over the past two weeks due to family circumstances.
ULSTER (v Benetton Rugby): Louis Ludik; Andrew Trimble (capt), Tommy Bowe, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Robbie Diack, Kieran Treadwell, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Jean Deysel.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Rodney Ah You, Peter Browne, Chris Henry, David Shanahan, Peter Nelson, Luke Marshall.