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Ulster Make A Dozen Changes For Leinster Game

Ulster Make A Dozen Changes For Leinster Game

Ballymena-born back rower Matthew Rea is pictured in Rainbow Cup action against Connacht ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has made twelve changes to the team that lost to Munster as they aim to bounce back away to Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster on Friday (kick-off 8.15pm).

For the trip to the RDS, Robert Baloucoune and Craig Gilroy join full-back Jacob Stockdale in a freshened-up back-three, while James Hume reunites with Stuart McCloskey in midfield.

Half-backs Billy Burns and David Shanahan complete the back-line, taking over from Michael Lowry and Alby Mathewson respectively.

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Captain Iain Henderson is the only player retained up front, where he is partnered by Sam Carter, behind an all-new front row of Eric O’Sullivan, hooker Rob Herring and Martin Moore.

Nick Timoney, who was a half-time replacement in Limerick, resumes at number 8, anchoring a back row that also features Matthew Rea at blindside and Sean Reidy on the openside.

Academy players Callum Reid (22) and Nathan Doak (19) are named among the forward and back replacements respectively.

The other forward bench options are Brad Roberts, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Greg Jones. Along with current Ireland Under-20 prospect Doak, the back-line reinforcements are Ian Madigan and Rob Lyttle.

Flying winger Lyttle insisted: “While the past couple of games have been disappointing, we’ve actually had quite a good season and I know there’s no silverware to prove that, but actually as a group we have done well.

“We want to finish well now and finish how we started. We’re trying to pick ourselves up but we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. We’re trying to right those wrongs.

“(The Rainbow Cup) is not as big a deal as the Challenge Cup and the PRO14 season gone by, but these are still interpros, they are still big games.

“There are guys (at Ulster) who are trying to push into the Ireland squad for the summer and they want to get one over against the guys they’re playing against.

“They (Leinster) are the best team in the league. There’s massive rivalry and we take it very personally when we play there.

“Also, as it’s the close of the season, there’s competition for guys in the squad to put their hand up for Dan going forward for next year. So it’s (the Rainbow Cup) definitely still a big deal.”

ULSTER (v Leinster): Jacob Stockdale; Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy; Billy Burns, David Shanahan; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marting Moore, Sam Carter, Iain Henderson (capt), Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Greg Jones, Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan, Rob Lyttle.