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McPhillips ready to seize his big chance as new era dawns

By Jonathan Bradley

Ahead of his first ever senior start, Johnny McPhillips believes Ulster are ready to begin the post-Les Kiss era with a flourish against Southern Kings at Kingspan Stadium tonight (7.35pm).

The province's Australian Director of Rugby left the club a week ago after an indifferent run of results, a Champions Cup exit at the hands of Wasps bringing an end to his two and a half year reign.

McPhillips, who was handed his debut by Kiss just before Christmas, assured fans that the rare mid-season shake-up hasn't thrown the side off course with head coach Jono Gibbes assuming overall control of on-field matters.

"Les is a great guy and he gave me my first professional cap so I'll remember him in a very good light and it was great to work alongside someone of his quality but in terms of transitions, it's as smooth as it can be," said the 20-year-old who wears the ten jersey this evening.

"The squad is used to Jono, he coached us under Les so this week has been really smooth. We know the environment, it's someone who's comfortable with all the plays."

Other than McPhillips' first start, Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy are back from injury to bolster Gibbes' first selection, while Rob Herring has been released by the national side to take his place on the bench.

He is, however, without Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale, all of whom were named by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt in his side to face Italy at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow (2.15pm).

Belfast Telegraph

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