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Baloucoune Returns For Ulster’s Northampton Trip

Baloucoune Returns For Ulster’s Northampton Trip

Robert Baloucoune and Michael Lowry will form two-thirds of Ulster's back-three in their third round encounter with Northampton Saints ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Ireland flyer Robert Baloucoune makes a welcome return from injury as Ulster travel to cinch Stadium on Sunday to face Northampton Saints (kick-off 3.15pm).

The 24-year-old from Enniskillen comes in on the right wing, with Michael Lowry and Ethan McIlroy continuing at full-back and on the left flank respectively.

22-year-old talent Stewart Moore joins fellow youngster James Hume (23) in midfield, with Stuart McCloskey sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Nathan Doak gets his first Heineken Champions Cup start at half-back, featuring alongside Billy Burns. The calf injury John Cooney picked up against Munster keeps him out.

Andrew Warwick and Martin Moore will pack down either side of hooker Rob Herring, who scored the province’s lone try at Thomond Park last Saturday night.

Alan O’Connor will once again captain the Ulstermen – in the absence of ankle injury victim Iain Henderson – and joining him in the second row is Kieran Treadwell.

Springbok star Duane Vermeulen makes his third European appearance for the province at number 8, leading a back row that also contains Marcus Rea and Nick Timoney.

John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter and Greg Jones are selected as the forward replacements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back-line cover.

Speaking ahead of the third round game, back row Jones said: “Northampton will be really good, their attack has been class.

“We have already talked this week about the fact that although we played reasonably well at home and got a good bonus point win against them (27-22), we didn’t think we saw the best of them.

“We’re going to face something even tougher going over there. A big thing for us will be stopping them at source with their set piece and attack – it’s obviously such a strength those first three phases.

“They run them really well and play with a lot of speed, so a big part will be applying pressure at set piece and shutting them down in the first few phases.”

He added: “I’ve been delighted to be able to get to play and being involved in some really big wins (recently). Last weekend against Munster was disappointing but to be involved in those games against Leinster, Northampton and Clermont, they were really good games.

“I’m just hoping it continues and I keep playing and contributing well. Hopefully we can get the show back on the road this weekend and rectify what went wrong last week.”

ULSTER (v Northampton Saints): Michael Lowry; Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.