Ulster duo Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale will make their first appearances of the season in Friday’s GUINNESS PRO14 derby match against Connacht at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).
The Ireland pair have recovered from their respective injuries to make their seasonal debuts in Ulster’s first home interprovincial derby fixture of the 2018/19 campaign. Tickets for the round 6 match are still available at ulsterrugby.com/buytickets.
Hooker Rory Best will captain the side on his return and will join Tom O’Toole and Andrew Warwick in the front row, while Alan O’Connor and Iain Henderson, who has completed the return-to-play protocols, will continue their second row partnership.
South African powerhouse Marcell Coetzee has recovered from a shoulder injury and will pack down at number 8, alongside Matthew Rea and Nick Timoney, who both started last weekend’s record 64-7 loss to Munster, in the back row.
Billy Burns and John Cooney are retained in the half-back positions, while Stuart McCloskey and 20-year-old talent Angus Curtis are paired together in midfield for the first time. Jacob Stockdale, Angus Kernohan, the 19-year-old who is chasing his second try in four games, and Peter Nelson combine in the back-three.
Replacement lock Kieran Treadwell is set to make his 50th senior appearance for the province and is joined on the bench by fellow forwards Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane and Sean Reidy. Johnny McPhillips could make his seasonal bow after impressing for Ulster ‘A’ in the Celtic Cup, while Dave Shanahan and James Hume, a debutant against Munster, complete the match day squad.
Meanwhile, Ulster have confirmed that Darren Cave fractured his thumb during the match in Limerick and had surgery on Monday. He is expected to return to play within eight weeks. Wiehahn Herbst had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn adductor tendon sustained in the recent game against the Toyota Cheetahs.
ULSTER (v Connacht): Peter Nelson;; Angus Kernohan, Angus Curtis, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, Rory Best (capt), Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson, Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Dave Shanahan, Johnny McPhillips, James Hume.