Tom Court’s return to the front row is one of five Ulster changes for their Magners League match against Connacht at the Sportsground in Galway tonight (7.00pm).
Two weeks ago Ulster crashed to Cardiff at Ravenhill, their last home game of the season, so it was inevitable coach Matt Williams would ring the changes. Ulster complete their campaign next weekend away to the Scarlets.
It’s Court’s first start since Ireland’s Grand Slam campaign and he replaces Brian Young.
Flying wing Timoci Nagusa makes a welcome return after months out through injury. He comes into the side in place of the injured Andrew Trimble with Ian Whitten now partnering Darren Cave in the centre in the absence of Paddy Wallace, still recovering from an injury he picked up against Cardiff. In the second row Ed O’Donoghue is preferred to Carlo del Fava who is named on the bench, while in the back row Chris Henry is chosen ahead of David Pollock.
Connacht show three changes with Troy Nathan coming into the side at full back and Gavin Duffy reverting to inside centre.
Up front Ronan Loughney returns to the front row and John Muldoon again starts at No8 with Ray Ofisa moving to openside.
Meanwhile Leinster flanker Alan Quinlan and his advisors have a difficult decision to make over the weekend.
The Munster man was cited for an alleged gouging offence against Leinster in last weekend’s Heineken Cup semi-final.
Quinlan is charged with making contact with the eye or the eye area of a player — Leinster captain Leo Cullen. Were he to plead guilty and hope for the minimum sentence he could in theory end up with a six-week ban, but that appears unlikely.
Players guilty of such offences in recent times have been hit hard with the maximum sentence for a gouging offence 12 months.
Former Ulster flanker Neil Best, now with Northampton, was banned for 18 weeks last September while England’s Dylan Hartley was banned for 26 weeks in 2007 after being cited for two counts of gouging. Quinlan pleaded guilty to a stamping charge in the Heineken Cup in December 2006 and was handed a six-week ban.