The Ulster team has been finalised for Friday night’s crucial GUINNESS PRO14 encounter with Benetton Rugby at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).
Just two points separate the four teams lying behind Conference B leaders Leinster, with Edinburgh, Benetton, the Scarlets and Ulster all chasing a top-three finish in order to secure a place in the PRO14 play-offs coming the spring.
There are two personnel changes to Ulster back-line that played in last Saturday’s 14-13 comeback win away to Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Champions Cup, as Abbey insurance Academy players Michael Lowry and James Hume are installed at full-back and outside centre respectively.
Another Academy talent, Robert Baloucoune, who scored the match-winning try at Welford Road, is again selected on the right wing. Billy Burns and David Shanahan are retained at half-back, while Stuart McCloskey continues at inside centre and Louis Ludik switches to the left wing.
Up front, Alan O’Connor takes over the captaincy from Rory Best and partners Kieran Treadwell in the second row. Andrew Warwick and Rob Herring join Martin Moore, the province’s first try scorer at Welford Road, in the front row, while Ian Nagle, Nick Timoney and Greg Jones have earned call-ups to the back row.
Hooker John Andrew is set to win his 50th Ulster cap if introduced off the bench, with Wiehahn Herbst, Tom O’Toole, Matthew Dalton, Clive Ross, Jonny Stewart, Darren Cave and the fit-again Robert Lyttle also included in the matchday 23.
Ulster v Benetton tickets are priced from £17 for adults and £12 for juniors. Family packages are also available from £46. You can purchase online at ulsterrugby.com/buytickets or on the gate from 6.05pm on Friday.
ULSTER (v Benetton Rugby): Michael Lowry; Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik; Billy Burns, David Shanahan; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell, Ian Nagle, Nick Timoney, Greg Jones.
Replacements: John Andrew, Wiehahn Herbst, Tom O’Toole, Matthew Dalton, Clive Ross, Jonny Stewart, Darren Cave, Robert Lyttle.