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Ulster To Field Unchanged Team Against Lions

Ulster To Field Unchanged Team Against Lions

Winger Craig Gilroy was one of Ulster's try scorers in their 28-8 bonus point triumph over Benetton Rugby in round three ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has stuck with a winning formula to face Emirates Lions at Kingspan Stadium on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm), in what will be the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Tickets for the United Rugby Championship fourth round game, priced from £25 for adults and £15 for juniors, are still available at ulsterrugby.com/buytickets.

The starting XV is unchanged to the side that defeated Benetton Rugby 28-8 last Friday. Kieran Treadwell and Eric O’Sullivan have returned to full training this week and take up bench spots.

With back-to-back URC player-of-the-match medals, the 19-year-old Nathan Doak continues at half-back alongside Billy Burns, while James Hume and Stewart Moore form the centre partnership again.

Will Addison, Craig Gilroy, a try scorer last week, and Ethan McIlroy make up the back-three, and Rob Herring, Ulster’s latest double centurion, is joined by Andrew Warwick and Tom O’Toole in the front row.

Warwick will play with strapping on a dislocated finger, captain Sam Carter packs down with Alan O’Connor in the engine room, and the back row is comprised of Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney and David McCann, at number 8.

Treadwell and O’Sullivan are both back from injury, joining Brad Roberts, Ross Kane and Sean Reidy as the forward replacements at McFarland’s disposal.

Versatile back Michael Lowry could make his 50th appearance for the province if called upon from the bench. The other reserve backs are David Shanahan and Academy youngster Ben Moxham.

Speaking ahead of the Lions’ maiden visit to Belfast, Ulster defence coach Jared Payne said: “It’s new having a South African team over here and it’s exciting for us.

“We’ll face different ones and they all bring their own individual flair to the game. They’re going to be great for the league, they bring a different style.

“They love the contact so first and foremost you’ve got to get the attitude and mentality right around the contact. You’ve got to not give them anything. So you start there and then give yourself a chance to look after the guys out wide.

“There might be the odd tweak but the main focus is on that initial front-up physicality, not to give them the momentum and the space that they like because, as you’ve seen, when they get that they’ve got some dangerous outside backs.

“They’re fast boys and it’s a concerted effort to keep them quiet. When we go down there, it’s going to make the league even more interesting.

“It’ll be good to welcome them here, but it’s a different world down there. A different challenge for a lot of people going to places like Loftus (Versfeld). That’s a special place when it’s bouncing.

“It’ll be great for us to experience that. It’s normally pretty hard over there – hard grounds, fast grounds, big athletes in the forwards and pretty quick athletes in the backs.

“You tend to lose your lungs a bit quicker than normal too. There’s definitely a change and I think we’ll see that when we go down there.”

ULSTER (v Emirates Lions): Will Addison; Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (capt), Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, David McCann.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Michael Lowry, Ben Moxham.