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Burns To Captain Ulster Against Former Club

Burns To Captain Ulster Against Former Club

Billy Burns is back on provincial duty this weekend after recovering from a groin injury ©INPHO/Ian Rutherford

There are four personnel changes to the Ulster team to play Gloucester in round 2 of the Heineken Champions Cup at Kingsholm Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 3.15pm).

Billy Burns, who is back fitness after a groin injury, will captain the province against his former club, taking the reins at half-back alongside fellow Ireland international John Cooney.

The rest of the back-line is unchanged with Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes and Jacob Stockdale lining out together in the back-three, and the centre berths are filled again by the 22-year-old James Hume and Stuart McCloskey.

Behind an unchanged front row of Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Martin Moore, there is a first European start for 25-year-old lock David O’Connor who joins forces with his older brother Alan in the engine room.

Both Sam Carter and Marcell Coetzee are sidelined this week, with the latter’s place at number 8 going to Nick Timoney. Jordi Murphy, who missed the Toulouse game due to the birth of baby daughter Lily, resumes at openside with Sean Reidy switching to the blindside role.

John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matthew Rea and Greg Jones are the forward options on the bench. Academy player Ethan McIlroy could make his European debut if called upon – the 20-year-old is named alongside Alby Mathewson and Ian Madigan in the back-line replacements.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Anglo-Irish encounter, prop O’Sullivan said: “What’s been huge for us is making sure we’re playing our game and not being influenced by the team we’re playing. We go there to play rugby with our philosophy.

“With no fans, it’s a completely different atmosphere. It’s even more important because it’s so much easier to go and force your game if there isn’t a crowd to get behind the team to lift them.

“As long as we’re getting our game right, it makes those away fixtures a bit less daunting. We were disappointed not to get the result we needed (at home to Toulouse), but it was a good performance from us.

“We had opportunities when we could have got a couple more scores, it would have been a different game. We will just have to take our learnings from it.

“We’re going into a huge game this week (against Gloucester), so we can’t afford to dwell on the Toulouse game for too long and feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to get on with it now.”

ULSTER (v Gloucester): Michael Lowry; Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns (capt), John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor, David O’Connor, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matthew Rea, Greg Jones, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.