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Ulster v Zebre match postponed due to pitch conditions

Published 25/11/2016

Welcome return: Chris Henry was due to start for Ulster against Zebre on Friday night
Welcome return: Chris Henry was due to start for Ulster against Zebre on Friday night

Ulster's match against Zebre at the Kingspan Stadium has been postponed due to pitch conditions.

Welsh referee Craig Evans - who was due to referee his first PRO12 game - postponed the match an hour-and-a-half before kick-off despite efforts being made to thaw out the surface.

Ulster tweeted that the fixture was off "after a late call by the referee".

The game will now be rescheduled with the weekends beginning January 27 and February 3 being the closest free dates. Fans are advised to retain their tickets for the rearranged game.

A statement from Ulster Rugby read: "This evening's Guinness PRO12 fixture between Ulster and Zebre has been postponed after a late decision by the referee.

"The surface was deemed unplayable due to certain areas of the pitch being frozen.

"Ulster Rugby will work with PRO12 Rugby and Zebre Rugby to reschedule the fixture and a new date will be announced in due course. Supporters should retain their tickets as they will be valid for the rearranged game."

Chris Henry makes first appearance of season as Irish duo also return

By Jonathan Bradley

Flanker Chris Henry is back in the fold for Ulster against Zebre this evening (7.35pm kick-off) and is named in the side for the first time this season.

The 32-year-old has struggled with a shoulder issue since the summer but boosts Les Kiss with his return to the number seven jersey tonight.

Henry is not the only returnee with both Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy released from the Ireland camp preparing to meet Australia tomorrow.

With Robbie Henshaw injured, Marshall will be disappointed not to get another Test cap but instead will start at inside centre for the province.

His midfield partner will be Louis Ludik in a new-look pairing after the South African recovered from a broken cheekbone sustained against Connacht last month.

The returns of four senior players gives the line-up a considerably bolstered look as the side looks to address a three-game Pro12 slide.

Charles Piutau is at full-back with Tommy Bowe and Jacob Stockdale, one of the few to impress against Edinburgh, also in the back-three as Gilroy has to make do with a place on the bench.

Kiss has resisted the temptation to move Ruan Pienaar into out-half with the Springbok staying at scrum-half and Brett Herron again wearing 10 in the absence of Paddy Jackson.

In the pack, Rob Herring is joined in the front-row by Kyle McCall and Wiehahn Herbst with plenty of emphasis sure to be placed on negating the Italian's scrum.

"Zebre are very much an improving team and we saw what they are capable of when they beat Edinburgh recently," said Herbst.

"The Pro12 is a very tough competition. The standards are higher than they have ever been so you need to give every game your full attention.

"The break in games seems to have done everyone good. We've used the opportunity to get a couple of really good weeks of training in and there has been a real positive vibe among the team so now we're focused on bringing that into the next game.

"A few more players who were out injured have come back into training so that also helps strengthen the squad and push everyone on."

Behind him in the scrum will be again be Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe, while Clive Ross and Sean Reidy join Henry in the back-row.

Despite the international window, there is plenty of experience among the replacements.

Joining Gilroy are Irish-capped trio Dan Tuohy, Paul Marshall and Robbie Diack.

Youngster Rob Lyttle is also waiting in the wings with John Andrew, Kyle McCall and Callum Black the front-row subs.

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