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Best and McCall rested as Kiss rotates squad for Connacht clash

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 26/12/2015

Captain’s run: Rob Herring replaces Rory Best as hooker and skipper for the visit to Connacht
Captain’s run: Rob Herring replaces Rory Best as hooker and skipper for the visit to Connacht

With the big games coming thick and fast for Ulster, director of rugby Les Kiss has rotated his squad ahead of today's visit to Connacht (6pm kick-off).

Two stalwarts of the impressive wins over Toulouse have been rested with both Rory Best and Kyle McCall not among the 23 travelling to Galway.

Best is replaced as hooker and captain by Rob Herring with John Andrew coming onto the bench as a replacement.

Handing McCall a breather, Andy Warwick starts at loosehead with Callum Black onto the bench after featuring for the 'A' side over the last fortnight.

While Best and McCall are absent, Wiehahn Herbst keeps his place in the front-row with Ricky Lutton again the back-up tight head.

With Craig Gilroy having fractured his eye socket in last Sunday's win over Toulouse, the man who replaced him as a substitute in the Stade Ernest Wallon, Rory Scholes, comes onto the wing.

He is joined in the back-three by Louis Ludik and Andrew Trimble who is making his 199th appearance for his province.

Sam Arnold is fit again to provide cover from the bench.

Scholes' inclusion is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged backline meaning that the in-form pairings of half-backs Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson, and centres Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloskey, are kept in tact.

Alan O'Connor and Franco van der Merwe are again Kiss' preferred second-row duo but it is back-rower Stephen Mulholland rather than Lewis Stevenson on the bench.

In the back-row there is one alteration with Nick Williams starting at number 8 and Roger Wilson taking his place on the bench. There is no return for Chris Henry who is nursing a shoulder complaint with Robbie Diack the other flanker.

Hosts Connacht have been boosted by numerous players returning from injury.

Coach Pat Lam has made 12 changes to the side that lost to Newcastle Falcons in the Challenge Cup last weekend and has been able to restore full-back Tiernan O'Halloran, centre Bundee Aki and half-backs Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion to his backline.

They join Niyi Adeolokun and Craig Ronaldson behind the pack. Up front, only Eoghan Masterson retains his place from last week. He switches to number 8, with captain John Muldoon returning at blindside and academy player John Connolly in the number seven jersey.

Promising lock Ultan Dillane is joined in the second-row by Aly Muldowney while it's also all change at the coalface.

Irish World Cup squad member Nathan White is back at tight-head with Finlay Bealham at loosehead and Dave Heffernan in the number two jersey.

While the likes of Robbie Henshaw, Denis Buckley and Nepia Fox-Matamua remain on the sidelines, it is a much stronger Connacht panel who have named former Ulster scrum-half Ian Porter among their replacements.

Lam has said that the returning numbers to his squad have provided a boost ahead of what he expects to be a stern examination of their Pro12 title credentials.

"It's great to have players back available this week in what is going to be a really big test for us," he said. "Ulster have always been tough opposition and this weekend will be no different. "When you look at what they have achieved already this season and what they are capable of, we know we will have to be clinical in everything we do to ensure we make the most of the opportunities we create.

"It's our first derby game at the Sportsground and there's going to be a huge crowd behind us.

"We are really excited to get out there and determined to put in a performance that will keep our unbeaten home record intact."

Belfast Telegraph

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