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Ulster Welcome Back Stockdale, Reidy And Baloucoune

Ulster Welcome Back Stockdale, Reidy And Baloucoune

Back-three stars Jacob Stockdale and Robert Baloucoune are looking to regain their match fitness after spells on Ulster's injury list ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has made three personnel changes and two positional switches to the team to host the Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium on Friday (kick-off 8pm).

Ireland international Jacob Stockdale has overcome a knee injury to be selected on the left wing, with Rob Lyttle shifting to the right and Michael Lowry, last week’s player-of-the-match in Glasgow, continuing at full-back.

There is continuity in midfield and at half-back, as the James Hume-Stuart McCloskey and Ian Madigan-John Cooney pairings are retained following the 19-13 victory over Glasgow Warriors.

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Andrew Warwick comes into the front row, alongside John Andrew and Martin Moore, and the trio are supported from the engine room by Kieran Treadwell, Ulster’s latest centurion, and Alan O’Connor.

Jordi Murphy will again captain the province from a reshuffled back row, which has Nick Timoney moving to number 8, and flanker Greg Jones is an indirect replacement for the injured Marcell Coetzee (thigh muscle contusion).

Fit-again winger Robert Baloucoune will make his seasonal debut for Ulster if introduced from the bench. The 23-year-old speedster is returning from a torn hamstring.

Alby Mathewson and Matt Faddes complete the back-line reserves, while Sean Reidy, arguably the province’s most influential player so far this season, is back from injury to take a bench spot.

The other replacement forwards are Ross Kane, who could make his 50th appearance for the Ulstermen, Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan and Cormac Izuchukwu, last week’s debutant away to the Warriors.

With Ulster having to make up a five-point gap on Conference A leaders Leinster in the coming rounds, skills coach Dan Soper said: “If you crunch the numbers that would make it pretty close at the moment and what is really important – and it is the same at any time or any level of rugby when you start focusing too far down the road – you can lose sight of what is right in front of your face.

“What is important for us is just to go out this weekend 100% focused on the Ospreys and get the job done. There is no doubt that there are some big games coming up after that, with Leinster and so forth.

“But those games will mean absolutely nothing if we don’t get the job done this weekend, so what is really important is that we just focus on getting our performance right.”

ULSTER (v Ospreys): Michael Lowry; Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy (capt), Nick Timoney.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Cormac Izuchukwu, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Matt Faddes, Robert Baloucoune.