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Derry to shuffle pack for battle with title rivals

By Ronnie Ingram

City of Derry and Malone are both battling holders Ballynahinch for the Ulster Championship title but one of the pair could well be out of the reckoning following their meeting at Judge's Road today.

Presently, Derry head the table with 17 points from five outings while holders Hinch and Malone are both on 14 after three and four games respectively.

Derry's Director of Rugby, Moss Dineen, states that they have no injury problems after last week's narrow 27-23 defeat at the hands of Blackrock but will give some of their other squad members some playing time.

"Cathal Cregan will play at hooker and Chris Shields at prop to allow Stephen Ferguson and Sam Duffy to be rested," he revealed.

"We were beaten 27-19 by Malone last March also at Judge's Road but this time Peter Henderson, who is a doctor at Altnagelvin, will be playing for us at full-back."

Hinch will be much the same as last weekend but their opponents, Queen's, have been badly weakened. Damon Hall and Hugh Sloan have both returned home to England for the holidays and Lorcan Dow is involved with the Irish Under-20 squad.

Queen's Director of Rugby, Ronnie Moore, commented: "Stuart McIlwaine sustained a slight shoulder injury and Eoin Devlin has an ankle problem so we have decided to give them a rest.

"Our captain, Ryan Clarke, came off against Bective and will also be absent but Nigel Simpson and Matthew Doak return. The team will not be finalised until the morning."

Ballymena, like their opponents Banbridge, have already sustained two defeats including a narrow 12-9 loss at Hinch, so they must come out on top at Rifle Park.

"We will make just a couple of changes for the game," commented their Director of Rugby, Pete McKenzie.

"Brian Young will play at loose head, Chris Condell at tight head and second row David Whann will probably be given another run out."

Bann bring in Chris Leathem on the wing and Brian Curran to the second row for the unavailable John Porter and Stephen Irvine.

In the remaining fixtures, Belfast Harlequins, undefeated after only two games, travel to Ards while AIL 2B's Armagh entertain 2A's Rainey.

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