Ulster stalwarts Rory Best and Darren Cave are set to make their final appearances at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday after being named in the province’s squad for their GUINNESS PRO14 quarter-final against Connacht (kick-off 5.35pm).
The vastly-experienced duo, who have made a combined total of 446 appearances for Ulster to date, have both announced that they are hanging up their boots as ‘one-club’ men at the end of the current season.
Supporters will have the opportunity to pay tribute to both players after Saturday’s game and tickets for the crunch all-Irish quarter-final fixture are still available at ulsterrugby.com/buytickets. Please note that as this derby clash is part of the PRO14 final series, it is not included in the 2018/19 Season Ticket package.
Best has returned from an ankle ligament injury and will captain the side from hooker, flanked by props Ross Kane and Eric O’Sullivan, while Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell will provide grunt from the second row. A loose forward combination of Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee has been selected.
Billy Burns and John Cooney are reinstated at half-back, with Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloskey paired together in midfield. Academy youngsters Michael Lowry, who impressed last Saturday against Leinster, and Robert Baloucoune will line out in the back-three alongside Robert Lyttle. Jacob Stockdale misses out with a hamstring injury.
Rob Herring, Ulster’s top try scorer in the PRO14 this season with seven tries, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Sean Reidy are the forward replacements. Cave, who captained the Ulstermen to a 14-13 victory over Leinster, David Shanahan and Angus Kernohan complete the matchday 23.
Connacht have won the previous two encounters between the teams this season, including a long-awaited triumph in Belfast back in October. However, Dan McFarland’s men have been in very good form since the turn of the year and have lost just one PRO14 match since early January.
ULSTER (v Connacht): Michael Lowry; Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Robert Lyttle; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rory Best (capt), Ross Kane, Iain Henderson, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Darren Cave, Angus Kernohan.