Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has finalised the team to play Benetton Rugby in round 8 of the GUINNESS PRO14 at Stadio di Monigo on Saturday (kick-off 4pm local time/3pm Irish time).
Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy player James Hume will make his first senior start, following on from his appearances off the bench against Munster and Connacht earlier this season. He is joined in the back-line by Academy colleague Robert Baloucoune, who had an accomplished debut against the Dragons last weekend.
Stuart McCloskey, who is released from Ireland squad duty this week along with Rob Herring, will partner the 20-year-old Hume in midfield, while Billy Burns has recovered from injury to rejoin David Shanahan at half-back. Baloucoune had Henry Speight and full-back Peter Nelson for company in the back-three.
Up front, Herring will pack down alongside Eric O’Sullivan and Martin Moore, with captain Alan O’Connor combining with Kieran Treadwell in the second row. Marcell Coetzee, Sean Reidy and Nick Timoney form a combative back row unit.
John Andrew, Andrew Warwick and Tom O’Toole are the province’s front row reinforcements, while Clive Ross and Greg Jones, who impressed off the bench last time out, will provide additional forward cover. Jonny Stewart, Johnny McPhillips and 19-year-old winger Angus Kernohan are the back-line options.
ULSTER (v Benetton Rugby): Peter Nelson; Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Henry Speight; Billy Burns, David Shanahan; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell, Marcell Coetzee, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Clive Ross, Greg Jones, Jonny Stewart, Johnny McPhillips, Angus Kernohan.