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Chris Henry's injury a blow for Les Kiss as French opt for overhaul

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 19/12/2015

Calling the shots: Director of Rugby Les Kiss and coach Neil Doak run the rule over Ulster training yesterday
Calling the shots: Director of Rugby Les Kiss and coach Neil Doak run the rule over Ulster training yesterday

Ulster will be without Irish international flanker Chris Henry when they travel to the Stade Ernest Wallon to meet Toulouse in the Champions Cup tomorrow (1pm kick-off).

After last week's resounding 38-0 win over Ugo Mola's side, Ulster are braced for a backlash in the south of France this weekend and the loss of their in-form openside - who picked up a minor shoulder niggle early in the week - is a substantial blow.

After performing strongly against Edinburgh in the PRO12 win two weeks ago, Henry was excellent at the Kingspan Stadium last time out, keeping the usually influential former French captain Thierry Dusautoir quiet in a try-scoring display.

He is replaced at openside by Sean Reidy who will be making his first appearance in the Champions Cup.

Reidy is one of just two changes to Les Kiss' starting 15 with the other also coming in the back-row.

Roger Wilson, now Ulster's second most-capped player of all time, comes in at No.8 in place of Nick Williams.

The 34-year-old appeared off the bench in the first meeting with Toulouse after missing out against Edinburgh a week before with a late back spasm.

Williams had an eventful outing last time out, scoring Ulster's first try in the rout before being shown a yellow card.

Teaming up with Wilson and Reidy in the loose forwards is blindside flanker Robbie Diack.

The only other change in the 23-man panel sees Lewis Stevenson come onto the bench with Clive Ross missing out.

There is an unaltered backline with full-back Louis Ludik again teaming up with Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy in the back-three.

Young wing Rory Scholes provides cover from the bench.

After impressing last week, Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall continue in the midfield with Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson paired at half-back for the fifth game in succession.

Ian Humphreys and Paul Marshall will again be held in reserve at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.

Kyle McCall's run of form is rewarded with another start at loosehead and he is selected in the front-row alongside skipper Rory Best and tight-head Wiehahn Herbst.

Andy Warwick, Rob Herring and Ricky Lutton are again the replacements up front.

In the second-row, another youngster keeps his place with Alan O'Connor playing alongside Franco van der Merwe.

With Ulster's team largely settled, their hosts have made wholesale changes and retain just six players from the team who were so disappointing in Belfast last week.

Gael Fickou, Sebastien Bezy, Census Johnston, Yoann Maestri, Yacouba Camara and captain Dusautoir are the only players retained.

French international Jean Marc Doussain comes in at half-back for Luke McAllister while, with Louis Picamoles fit enough only for the bench, Imanol Harinordoquy comes in at No.8.

There is also a return for Florian Fritz at inside centre.

In the other game in Ulster's pool, Saracens host Oyonnax at Allianz Park this afternoon (1pm kick-off).

Mark McCall's men have 14 points from an available 15 in European competition this season and, barring an unexpected loss to the French minnows, are firmly in the driving seat for top spot in the group.

The Londoners have made eight changes to the side that scored six tries in at the Stade Charles Mathon last week as Billy Vunipola, Alistair Hargreaves and George Kruis all miss out thanks to slight knocks.

Despite a comfortable win last weekend, McCall has called for improvement.

"This week we've had a chance to fine-tune some aspects of our game," said the former Ulster head coach. "We have reviewed some of the things we have done well over in Oyonnax and we've looked to work on improving some aspects of our play that maybe weren't up to standard.

"We're looking forward to another big challenge."

Champions Cup debutants Oyonnax have never won a game in England in three previous attempts.

Belfast Telegraph

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