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Ulster v Connacht scores and result from Guinness Pro12 clash at Kingspan Stadium

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 01/04/2016

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has been boosted by the return of his Irish international frontliners for tonight's must-win clash with Connacht at the Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm).

Captain Rory Best, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne - a trio who had a combined 14 starts during the Six Nations - all missed last week's defeat to Glasgow but are back to face Pat Lam's league leaders tonight as they make their first Ulster appearances since January.

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Best takes both the starting hooker position and role of skipper from Rob Herring who drops to the bench while Trimble is back on the right wing with Craig Gilroy switching to the No.11 jersey.

Most interestingly, Payne returns at fullback where his opposite number will be his Irish midfield partner Robbie Henshaw.

The injured pair of No.8 Nick Williams and lock Alan O'Connor are replaced by Roger Wilson - for his 150th PRO12 appearance - and Pete Browne respectively.

Callum Black and Ricky Lutton will again be the props, with Franco van der Merwe alongside Browne in the engine room.

Iain Henderson continues his comeback from injury at blindside with Chris Henry in his familiar No.7 jersey.

Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson are again the half-backs with Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall maintaining their centre pairing.

Connacht have not won in Belfast since 1960 but, riding a six-game winning streak, will rarely have visited with such expectation of victory.

Kiss said: "You have to admire what Connacht have done.

"That makes it a tough battle. Pat's been there three or four years and what he's built is robust. They don't lose a lot of players to representative honours and can build slowly but that doesn't change the fact that there's quality in their game.

"We beat them at the Sportsground (in December), the only team to do so, and we can point to that but they'll have their guard up."

Having struggled for fit No.10s in the aftermath of beating Leinster six days ago, Connacht were dealt further blows when full-back Tiernan O'Halloran and Irish international scrum-half Kieran Marmion were lost to injury.

Lam said: "Our squad depth is strong in all positions except 10 and 15 so to lose AJ (MacGinty) to injury, have Shane (O'Leary) go down with sickness and have Tiernan and Kieran drop out with injuries, it is a challenge.

"History and the short turnaround is against us for the physical challenge that awaits in Ulster, but we know that focusing on the quality of our performance will give us the best chance of getting the points."

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