Ulster 'A' raring to go, insists Campbell
With the emphasis very much on giving youth its chance, Ulster 'A' are in Wales today to open their Celtic Cup campaign against Scarlets at the Llandovery club (kick-off 2.30pm).
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Eleven players from the squad of 23 selected by coaches Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson are part of the Ulster Academy and, indeed, 13 of the starting side are in the system when the sub-Academy is included.
In only the Cup's second year, the structure has already been tweaked and will be played as a league with the top two sides going straight into the final.
The seven rounds will be over successive weekends and Campbell will be looking for improvement from last season when they won four from six games with then-schoolboy Aaron Sexton making an impact.
Today's side is skippered by hooker Zack McCall, and new Academy recruits Conor Rankin, Hayden Hyde and Callum Reid all start.
Nathan Doak, son of former Ulster coach Neil, is at scrum-half while Ireland U20 players David McCann and Azur Allison are in the back-row.
"With the games coming thick and fast, we have to learn quickly," said Campbell.
"Away from home, it's going to be a significant challenge but it's one we're well prepared for."
Meanwhile, Ulster Women host Leinster at City of Armagh's Palace Grounds (kick-off 7pm).
Ulster 'A': C Rankin, E McIlroy, H Hyde, B Power, G Curtis, B Houston, N Doak; C Reid, Z McCall (capt), P Cooper, JJ McKee, J Regan, J Dunleavy, D McCann, A Allison. Subs: C Milligan, P Mullen, J Blair, C McMenamin, M Agnew, A Hall, L Finlay, M Stronge