Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has selected a much-changed matchday squad for their GUINNESS PRO14 derby match against Leinster at the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm).
The starting XV includes four Abbey Insurance Academy players in the form of Matthew Dalton, Angus Kernohan, James Hume and Michael Lowry, while Robert Lyttle makes a welcome return from a lengthy spell on the sidelines to start on the right wing.
Lyttle, who scored two tries in his last outing for the province against the Southern Kings last February, combines with Kernohan and Lowry in a back-three that has an average age of just 20.
Hume and Darren Cave, who has 218 Ulster caps to his name, are paired together in midfield, with Johnny McPhillips and David Shanahan, the province’s leading PRO14 try scorer this season with five tries, manning the half-back berths.
Up front, Greg Jones will make his first start of the season after being included in the back row alongside Sean Reidy and Nick Timoney. Alan O’Connor has recovered from an ankle injury sustained against Cardiff Blues in early December and will partner seasonal debutant Dalton in the second row.
Wiehahn Herbst is another player who is off the injury list having not featured since September. Returning from a groin injury, he will pack down in the front row alongside 22-year-old hooker Adam McBurney and tighthead Kyle McCall.
There are two potential debutants on the bench with call-ups for versatile Banbridge forward Caleb Montgomery and Ballymena out-half Bruce Houston, who played for the Ireland Under-20s against the Munster Development side in Cork last Saturday.
Forwards John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, who is back from a knee injury, Tom O’Toole and Clive Ross, along with backs Jonny Stewart and Peter Nelson, make up the remainder of the matchday 23, as Ulster chase only their third away win of the current PRO14 campaign.
ULSTER (v Leinster): Michael Lowry; Robert Lyttle, Darren Cave, James Hume, Angus Kernohan; Johnny McPhillips, David Shanahan; Kyle McCall, Adam McBurney, Wiehahn Herbst, Matthew Dalton, Alan O’Connor (capt), Greg Jones, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Caleb Montgomery, Clive Ross, Jonny Stewart, Bruce Houston, Peter Nelson.