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Bowe will make long-awaited return from the bench

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 01/10/2016

In hand: Tommy Bowe will make a return against his old side Ospreys
In hand: Tommy Bowe will make a return against his old side Ospreys

Tommy Bowe is back in an Ulster squad for only the second time in over a year for the visit of Ospreys this evening (6.30pm kick-off).

The two-time Lions wing suffered a knee injury on World Cup duty with Ireland 12 months ago and, while he made an attempted comeback in April, 80 minutes against Zebre were all he could manage before another lengthy spell on the sidelines.

After what was surely the most frustrating spell of his career, the Monaghan man is back on the Ulster bench this evening against his former side, and will be relishing a chance for game time.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss is able to ease the 32-year-old back into the action with Craig Gilroy fit again to start on the wing along with the in-form Louis Ludik, although co-captain Andrew Trimble, who is back in training, is not yet ready to make his own return from injury.

In a backline re-shuffle, Charles Piutau reverts to full-back while this week it is Jared Payne who joins Darren Cave in the midfield. For the first time this season, Ruan Pienaar is given a breather with understudy Paul Marshall handed the No.9 jersey to form a new half-back pairing with Paddy Jackson.

After making his first appearance of the campaign off the bench in the win over Glasgow last week, Rory Best gets the start this evening and, with Rob Herring rested, John Andrew provides cover at hooker.

Joining the Ireland skipper at the coalface are props Kyle McCall and Rodney Ah You, with Callum Black and Ross Kane held in reserve.

With co-captains Herring and Trimble both outside the 23, the team will be led by Franco van der Merwe. The South African, who made one appearance for the Springboks, arrived at Kingspan in 2014 and captains the side for the first time. While Irish international Dan Tuohy was another who returned to training, his comeback after 10 months out is to be delayed as Alan O'Connor joins van der Merwe in the engine room with Kieran Treadwell on the bench.

The back-row will again be depended upon to make an impact with Irish internationals Iain Henderson and Sean Reidy pairing up at flanker with Roger Wilson at the base of the scrum.

Brett Herron and Robbie Diack round out the bench.

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