Ulster ‘A’ will travel to Cardiff Arms Park to take on Cardiff Blues ‘A’ in round 3 of the Celtic Cup on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm), and coaches Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson have named another youthful matchday squad.
The starting XV features eight Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy players, with a further five Academy players named among the replacements. Michael Lowry, who had a late switch to centre against the Scarlets ‘A’, captains the province from out-half, alongside the newly-introduced Michael Stronge.
Jack Owens returns to partner James Hume in midfield, with Aaron Sexton, Robert Baloucoune and Iwan Hughes all retaining their places in the back-three. Notably, Sexton and Hughes were European Sevens title winners with Ireland at Under-18 level, while Baloucoune recently won European gold with the Ireland Men’s Sevens senior side.
The Ulster ‘A’ pack features five changes in personnel from last weekend’s heavy 45-15 defeat to their Scarlets counterparts. There is an all-new front row with Tommy O’Hagan and Rodney Ah You packing down either side of hooker Zack McCall. Flankers Marcus Rea and Aaron Hall are drafted in alongside Joe Dunleavy in the back row, while Clive Ross shifts into the engine room to link up with Bradley Luney, a try scorer last time out.
Academy back rower David McCann has returned from Ulster U-19 duty and is set to make his Ulster ‘A’ debut off the bench. Peter Cromie, Peter Cooper, Paul McGookin, Matthew Dalton and Matthew Agnew provide the additional forward cover, with Graham Curtis and Bruce Houston offering the back-line options.
ULSTER ‘A’ (v Cardiff Blues ‘A’): Iwan Hughes*; Robert Baloucoune*, Jack Owens, James Hume*, Aaron Sexton; Michael Lowry (capt)*, Michael Stronge; Tommy O’Hagan, Zack McCall*, Rodney Ah You, Clive Ross, Bradley Luney, Marcus Rea*, Aaron Hall*, Joe Dunleavy*.
Replacements: Peter Cromie, Peter Cooper, Paul McGookin, Matthew Dalton*, David McCann*, Graham Curtis*, Matthew Agnew*, Bruce Houston*.
* Denotes Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy player