The Ulster starting XV has been announced for Saturday’s Champions Cup round 5 showdown with La Rochelle at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 1pm). Limited tickets are still available via www.ulsterrugby.com.
Craig Gilroy and Louis Ludik return to the back-line after missing the GUINNESS PRO14 derby against Leinster last weekend, while John Cooney slots back in at scrum half following his appearance off the bench at the RDS.
Australian international Christian Lealiifano, who will be playing in his last home match for Ulster before returning to the Brumbies later this month, will partner Cooney at half back.
Ludik joins Stuart McCloskey in midfield, while Gilroy, Jacob Stockdale and full-back Charles Piutau, who leads the way for metres made in this year’s Champions Cup with 454, will make up a potent back-three.
Alan O’Connor is reinstalled in the second row where he is paired with Iain Henderson. Abbey Insurance Academy player Nick Timoney will pack down at number 8, with Matthew Rea and Sean Reidy named as the other loose forwards.
Rory Best will again lead the side and he will combine with Callum Black and Rodney Ah You in the front row. Johnny McPhillips could make his European debut after being included among the replacements. He is joined on the bench by Rob Herring, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Chris Henry, David Shanahan and Darren Cave.
Tighthead prop Kane, who was initially named in the Ulster ‘A’ team for this evening’s British & Irish Cup game against Cornish Pirates, has been called up to the senior squad as Wiehahn Herbst is ruled out due to a slight calf issue.
ULSTER (v La Rochelle): Charles Piutau; Craig Gilroy, Louis Ludik, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney; Callum Black, Rory Best (capt), Rodney Ah You, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Chris Henry, David Shanahan, Johnny McPhillips, Darren Cave.