Ireland international Stuart McCloskey will make his 100th Ulster appearance in Friday’s GUINNESS PRO14 encounter with the Ospreys at Morganstone Brewery Field (kick-off 7.35pm).
The 26-year-old centre made his debut against the Dragons in February 2014 and has been a regular starter for the province since then, as evidenced by his tally of 17 starts in the current campaign. Ulster and Ireland have also received a boost with the return of Iain Henderson from a finger injury.
Henderson, who missed Ireland’s opening two Guinness Six Nations games against England and Scotland, will partner Ulster captain Alan O’Connor in the second row. The tight five is completed by Academy prop Eric O’Sullivan, who has played in 18 of Ulster’s 20 games so far this season, and Ireland internationals Rob Herring and Martin Moore.
Starting for the first time this season, Clive Ross is joined in the back row by Nick Timoney and Jordi Murphy. The latter has been released from Ireland duty, as has scrum half John Cooney who appeared off the bench against both England and Scotland, and scored his first international try against the current Six Nations leaders.
Partnering Cooney in Bridgend will be 20-year-old Academy talent Michael Lowry, who makes his first start in the out-half position. McCloskey will combine with Darren Cave in midfield and together they boast 319 Ulster caps. Peter Nelson, Angus Kernohan and Louis Ludik make up the back-three.
The forward replacements at Dan McFarland’s disposal are John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Sean Reidy, while the back-line cover will be provided by David Shanahan, James Hume and Robert Lyttle, who got 105 minutes under his belt against Leinster and Benetton Rugby last month on his return from long-term injury.
ULSTER (v Ospreys): Peter Nelson; Angus Kernohan, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik; Michael Lowry, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor (capt), Iain Henderson, Clive Ross, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, James Hume, Robert Lyttle.