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Izuchukwu handed first Ulster start as McFarland continues rotation for final PRO14 game against Zebre

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Ulster lock Cormac Izuchukwu (INPHO/Craig Watson)

Ulster lock Cormac Izuchukwu (INPHO/Craig Watson)

©INPHO/Craig Watson

Ulster lock Cormac Izuchukwu (INPHO/Craig Watson)

Second row Cormac Izuchukwu will make his full Ulster debut in Friday's final Guinness PRO14 game of the season against Zebre at Kingspan Stadium (8.15pm).

The Academy lock, who has made four consecutive appearances from the bench for the province, has been included in the run-on team for the first time for the game in Belfast.

Head coach Dan McFarland has taken this opportunity to rotate his squad again after naming an experimental side against the Dragons a week ago, making seven changes to the team that started at the Principality Stadium.

There are recalls for former Ireland internationals John Cooney, Marty Moore and Jordi Murphy, while winger Robert Baloucoune also returns after a knock kept him out against the Dragons.

Recent Academy graduate Ethan McIlroy and James Hume are also introduced to the side as McFarland tries to play his team into form ahead of next month's Challenge Cup last-16 tie away to Harlequins.

After earning man of the match honours at fly-half last week in Cardiff, Michael Lowry is retained in the No.10 jersey and gets a start with Cooney alongside him as he gets another opportunity to stake a claim for more game time in his preferred position.

McIlroy starts at full-back and Baloucoune is back on the wing, where they are joined in the back three by Rob Lyttle, while Stewart Moore and Hume form a familiar centre pairing.

Up front, Eric O'Sullivan and John Andrew are retained in the front row, where they are joined by Marty Moore, with Izuchukwu paired with Kieran Treadwell in the second row on his first start.

The back row sees Murphy come onto the openside, where he joins Sean Reidy and Academy graduate David McCann, who switches from the blindside to start at No.8 and will likely be tasked with more ball carrying duties than last week.

On the bench, there is another appearance for Rainey Old Boys hooker Brad Roberts, with the South African joined in the forwards replacements by Callum Reid, Tom O'Toole - who is released from Ireland duty to play - Alan O'Connor and Matty Rea.

In the backs, sub-Academy centre Ben Moxham gets another chance to show what he can do as he is named alongside David Shanahan and Ian Madigan among the replacements.

Ulster team to play Zebre

15. Ethan McIlroy; 14. Robert Baloucoune, 13. James Hume, 12. Stewart Moore, 11. Rob Lyttle; 10. Michael Lowry, 9. John Cooney; 1. Eric O'Sullivan, 2. John Andrew, 3. Marty Moore; 4. Cormac Izuchukwu, 5. Kieran Treadwell; 6. Sean Reidy, 7. Jordi Murphy (captain), 8. David McCann.

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Replacements: 16. Brad Roberts, 17. Callum Reid, 18. Tom O'Toole, 19. Alan O'Connor, 20. Matty Rea, 21. David Shanahan, 22. Ian Madigan, 23. Ben Moxham.

Zebre

15. Gabriele di Giulio; 14. Pierre Bruno, 13. Tommaso Boni (captain), 12. Enrico Lucchin, 11. Jamie Elliott; 10. Paolo Pescetto, 9. Joshua Renton; 1. Paolo Buonfiglio, 2. Massimo Ceciliani, 3. Matteo Nocera; 4. Mick Kearney, 5. Ian Nagle; 6. Iacopo Bianchi, 7. Lorenzo Masselli, 8. Potu Junior Leavasa.

Replacements: 16. Marco Manfredi, 17. Daniele Rimpelli, 18. Eduardo Bello, 19. Leonard Krumov, 20. Charles Alaimalo, 21. Nicolò Casilio, 22. Guglielmo Palazzani, 23. Antonio Rizzi.


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