Ulster squad for Connacht Boxing Day clash with replacements for Rory Best and Craig Gilroy
The Ulster squad has been named for the Guinness PRO12 Boxing Day clash against Connacht at The Sportsground..
Rob Herring replaces Rory Best as hooker and captain, as the latter gains a well-earned break.
Andy Warwick will make his fifth start of the season at loosehead prop, with Wiehahn Herbst anchoring the other side of the scrum. Alan O'Connor and Franco van der Merwe continue their second row partnership from the back-to-back wins over Toulouse.
There is one change in the back row, with Nick Williams coming in for Roger Wilson at number 8, while Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy are retained as the other loose forwards.
Rory Scholes is the only newcomer to the backline, replacing the injured Craig Gilroy on the left wing. Andrew Trimble is named on the right flank and Louis Ludik will again line out at fullback.
Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall will start together in midfield for the third consecutive outing, with Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson in their usual half back positions.
Stephen Mulholland will make just his second senior appearance if called upon from the bench, while the dynamic John Andrew will provide cover for Herring in the middle of the scrum. Callum Black, Ricky Lutton and Roger Wilson are the other forward replacements.
Experienced half back duo Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys are also included in the match day squad, along with talented young outside back, Sammy Arnold.
The game will be televised live on BBC 2 NI.
Ulster team & replacements to face Connacht, Guinness PRO12, The Sportsground, Saturday December 26 (kick off 6.00pm):
(15-9): L Ludik, A Trimble, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Scholes, P Jackson, R Pienaar;
(1-8): A Warwick, R Herring (captain), W Herbst, A O'Connor, F van der Merwe, R Diack, S Reidy, N Williams;
Replacements (16-23): J Andrew, C Black, R Lutton, S Mulholland, R Wilson, P Marshall, I Humphreys, S Arnold.