Iain Henderson will captain Ulster for the first time on Friday night as Ulster opens theirChampions Cup campaign against Wasps at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm).
Iain Henderson, with 77 Ulster caps to his name, will lead a starting XV that features 12 internationals. Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss has made three personnel changes, while the one positional switch will see Henderson move from blindside flanker to the second row.
Two of the new faces are among the loose forwards as Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy are introduced alongside Jean Deysel, who will make his Champions Cup bow for Ulster. John Cooney and Christian Lealiifano will also make their European debuts for the province.
Kieran Treadwell will partner Henderson in the engine room, while the front row of Kyle McCall, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst is unchanged from last week’s 16-8 GUINNESS PRO14 derby victory over Connacht.
The one back-line change sees winger Louis Ludik earn selection in the back-three along with Charles Piutau and Jacob Stockdale, who will be aiming to build on his impressive strike-rate of four tries in four games so far this season.
Cooney, a Heineken Cup winner with Leinster in 2012, is paired with Lealiifano at half-back for the sixth time, while the strong-carrying duo of Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall will combine in midfield once again.
John Andrew, Rodney Ah You, Paul Marshall and Peter Nelson are retained for bench duty, with Callum Black, Matthew Rea, Clive Ross and Tommy Bowe also named in the match day 23.
A limited number of tickets for Friday’s Pool 1 clash are available via ulsterrugby.com/buytickets. Henderson takes the captaincy reins in the absence of both Rory Best (hamstring) and Chris Henry (larynx). Marcell Coetzee (knee), Craig Gilroy (back), Robert Lyttle (shoulder), Alan O’Connor (concussion), Jared Payne (headaches), Dave Shanahan (hamstring), Nick Timoney (ankle) and Schalk van der Merwe (shoulder) are also unavailable for selection.
ULSTER (v Wasps): Charles Piutau; Louis Ludik, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney; Kyle McCall, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (capt), Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Jean Deysel.
Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You, Matthew Rea, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Peter Nelson, Tommy Bowe.