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Academy winger McIlroy handed first Ulster start as province aim to maintain unbeaten record at Zebre

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Ethan McIlroy, in action against Leinster, will make his first Ulster start against Zebre

Ethan McIlroy, in action against Leinster, will make his first Ulster start against Zebre

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ethan McIlroy, in action against Leinster, will make his first Ulster start against Zebre

Ulster have handed Academy winger Ethan McIlroy his first start for the province in their Guinness PRO14 clash against Zebre on Monday (6pm UK kick-off).

The 20-year-old has been hugely impressive off the bench in the last two weeks, including a vital aerial take that prevented a try against the Cardiff Blues, and he has been rewarded with a start against the Italians.

Springbok No.8 Marcell Coetzee will make his 50th appearance for the province in the game at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma as Dan McFarland makes six changes to the side that defeated the Glasgow Warriors last week.

There are first starts of the season for Bill Johnston, Alby Mathewson and Greg Jones, along with McIlroy, while Alan O'Connor and Jordi Murphy also rotate back into the pack.

There is a long overdue rest for John Cooney, who has started every game this season thus far, leaving young centre Stewart Moore and tighthead prop Marty Moore as the only two players remaining to have featured in every starting XV this season.

McIlroy is joined in the back three by Michael Lowry and Craig Gilroy, while in the centre the partnership between Moore and Luke Marshall is retained for a second week.

After being limited to bench appearances thus far, Johnston gets a chance to start alongside veteran presence Mathewson at half-back, with the Kiwi also making his first start since joining over the summer.

The front row of Eric O'Sullivan, John Andrew and Moore is unchanged from the win over Warriors, with O'Connor coming in for Kieran Treadwell alongside stand-in captain Sam Carter in the second row.

Milestone man Coetzee is the only player to retain his jersey in the back row, with Jones and Murphy rotating in for last week's man of the match Sean Reidy and Matty Rea.

On the bench, Andrew Warwick is included in a matchday squad for the first time this season alongside Adam McBurney and Gareth Milasinovich as the front row replacements, with David O'Connor and Reidy the loose forward options.

David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and the returning Rob Lyttle will be the backs replacements for the game in Italy, with Ulster aiming to make it six wins from six to start the season, which would be their best start to a campaign since 2012.

Zebre have received a huge boost for the game, with Gabriele di Giulio making his long-awaited return from an injury sustained in April 2019 against Benetton on the wing, one of five changes to the team that lost to Scarlets last week.

Flanker Renato Giammarioli also returns from injury at openside flanker, while former Ulster lock Ian Nagle starts for the hosts, with another Irish lock, Mick Kearney, on the bench.

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ULSTER

15. Michael Lowry; 14. Craig Gilroy, 13. Luke Marshall, 12. Stewart Moore, 11. Ethan McIlroy; 10. Bill Johnston, 9. Alby Mathewson; 1. Eric O'Sullivan, 2. John Andrew, 3. Marty Moore; 4. Alan O'Connor, 5. Sam Carter (captain); 6. Greg Jones, 7. Jordi Murphy, 8. Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: 16. Adam McBurney, 17. Andrew Warwick, 18. Gareth Milasinovich, 19. David O'Connor, 20. Sean Reidy, 21. David Shanahan, 22. Ian Madigan, 23. Rob Lyttle.

ZEBRE

15. Michelangelo Biondelli; 14. Pierre Bruno, 13. Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12. Enrico Lucchin, 11. Gabriele di Giulio; 10. Antonio Rizzi, 9. Joshua Renton; 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2. Marco Manfredi, 3. Eduardo Bello; 4. Leonard Krumov, 5. Ian Nagle; 6. Nardo Casolari, 7. Renato Giammarioli, 8. Lorenzo Masselli.

Replacements: 16. Massimo Ceciliani, 17. Riccardo Brugnara, 18. Alexandru Tarus, 19. Mick Kearney, 20. Antoine Koffi, 21. Niccolo Casilio, 22. Paolo Pescetto, 23. Junior Laloifi.


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