Dan McFarland has named the Ulster team to face provincial rivals Munster at Thomond Park in Saturday evening’s GUINNESS PRO14 derby clash (kick-off 5.15pm).
In a starting line-up that has seven changes to the side that defeated Zebre last Friday, Ireland internationals Jacob Stockdale and Jordi Murphy will make their first appearances in the white jersey this season.
In the back-three, New Zealander Matt Faddes, who is set for his first experience of an Irish interprovincial match, switches to the full-back position and is joined by the returning Stockdale and Robert Lyttle on the left and right wings respectively.
Stuart McCloskey is recalled to join last week’s man-of-the-match Luke Marshall in midfield. 21-year-old talent Angus Curtis will make his first start for Ulster this season at out-half and is joined at half-back by John Cooney who made his 50th appearance last time out against Zebre.
Among the four changes in the forwards, Martin Moore returns to make his first start of the season at tighthead prop, joining Jack McGrath at loosehead and captain Rob Herring to make up an all-Ireland international front row. Sam Carter comes back in to join Alan O’Connor in the second row.
Joining Murphy in the loose forwards will be Sean Reidy at blindside flanker and Nick Timoney switches to number 8. Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Matthew Rea provide the forward cover on the bench, while David Shanahan, Bill Johnston and seasonal debutant Robert Baloucoune make up the back-line reinforcements.
Referencing Ulster’s record 64-7 defeat at Munster last season, head coach McFarland commented: “We gave up a couple of scores early on (when we last played Munster in Limerick) and we never really recovered from that – and I like to think we are a little more resilient this year because it is going to be tough.
“But we’re hoping to put in a better performance this year than last year. We’ve played well in patches so far this season – played really well in patches and not so well in others.
“We had a tough trip to South Africa, a tough game against the Cheetahs, who were coming off the back of the Currie Cup and playing some excellent rugby, but on the whole you have to pleased with 19 points off the back of five games. Now we have a tough assignment against Munster and we’ll see how that goes.”
ULSTER (v Munster): Matt Faddes; Robert Lyttle, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Angus Curtis, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring (capt), Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Matthew Rea, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Robert Baloucoune.