Academy starlets given Ulster debut
With just two more friendlies to go before the September 2 start of the competitive season, Friday night’s trip to south Wales where they face Principality Premiership side, Neath, is important to Ulster’s preparations for 2011/12.
Last Wednesday night’s 40-3 trouncing in the south of France was inflicted by a Bayonne side intent on sharpening its claws for the Top 14 start against Toulouse.
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin stressed that the priorities of the pre-season schedule are to give game-time to those returning after injury, enable new signings to bed in, deploy players sidelined since May 21 and use the opportunity to blood some of the Phoenix Academy youngsters.
Friday night’s line-up reflects those objectives. Full-back Peter Nelson and centre Christopher Farrell — both 18 — and 20-year-old wing Michael Allen, make their senior debuts.
The half-backs are Ian Porter and Paddy Jackson, with centre Luke Marshall and left wing Craig Gilroy completing a youthful back line.
New lock Lewis Stevenson is the captain, with Neil McComb his partner. Paddy McAllister, John Burns and Jerry Cronin are the front three, with Mike McComish (blindside), Willie Faloon (openside) and Robbie Diack (No 8) forming the loose trio.
The bench features Academy quintet Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy, Ali Birch, Conor Gaston and James Simpson, with Andrew Warwick, Callum Black and Adam Macklin the front row replacements.
Ulster: Peter Nelson; Michael Allen, Christopher Farrell, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Patrick Jackson, Ian Porter; Paddy McAllister, John Burns, Jerry Cronin; Lewis Stevenson (capt), Neil McComb; Michael McComish, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack. Replacements: Andrew Warwick, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, James Simpson, Ali Birch, Blane McIlroy, Stuart Olding, Conor Gaston.