Belfast Telegraph

Ulster make four changes for Clermont clash in bid for back-to-back Euro wins

Ulster flanker Sean Reidy (Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Ulster flanker Sean Reidy (Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has made four changes to his starting line-up for Friday's Heineken Champions Cup match against ASM Clermont Auvergne at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm).

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Louis Ludik, Eric O'Sullivan and Alan O'Connor all receive promotions to the run-on team due to injuries to Rob Lyttle, Jack McGrath and Sam Carter respectively.

The other changes sees Sean Reidy rotate into the back row for Matty Rea, who drops out of the 23 altogether, as McFarland puts faith in the majority of the team that defeated Bath 17-16 last Saturday.

South African winger Ludik is joined in the back three by Ireland internationals Will Addison and Jacob Stockdale, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall continue their centre pairing for the third straight week.

Fresh off signing a new two-year deal with the province, Billy Burns starts at fly-half and is joined at half-back by John Cooney.

With McGrath needing surgery on a thumb injury, O'Sullivan starts at loosehead alongside Rob Herring and Marty Moore in a front row that was excellent against Bath.

O'Connor steps up to partner captain Iain Henderson in the second row, while Reidy forms a powerful back three with Ireland international Jordi Murphy and bulldozing Springbok No.8 Marcell Coetzee.

There's a recall to the subs' bench for prop Kyle McCall, who will make his first European appearance since October 2017 if called upon, and also for lock Kieran Treadwell.

They are joined in the forward replacements by Adam McBurney, Tom O'Toole and Nick Timoney, while the backs replacements are formed of David Shanahan and the recalled Bill Johnston and Craig Gilroy.

The northern province could take a big step towards qualification from Pool Three with a win over the French giants, who humiliated Harlequins 53-21 at the Stade Marcel-Michelin last weekend.

Ulster have played Clermont twice in Belfast, winning both games, but this will be the toughest test they've had to date against Franck Azema's star-studded roster.

Ulster team to play ASM Clermont Auvergne (Kingspan Stadium, Friday November 22, 7.45pm)

(15-9): Will Addison; Louis Ludik, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney; (1-8): Eric O'Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore; Iain Henderson (captain), Alan O'Connor; Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Tom O'Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy.

Clermont

(15-9): Nick Abendanon; Peter Betham, Isaia Toeava, George Moala, Alivereti Raka; Jake McIntyre, Greig Laidlaw; (1-8): Etienne Falgoux, John Ulugia, Rabah Slimani; Paul Jedrasiak, Sitaleki Timani; Peceli Yato, Arthur Iturria, Fritz Lee (c).

Replacements: Mike Tadjer, Loni Uhila, Davit Zirakashvili, Thibaud Lanen, Lucas Dessaigne, Morgan Parra, Camille Lopez, Api Naqalevu.

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