Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Ulster

Fierce rivals close to full strength for classic clash


By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster and Munster will both enter today's interpro (3pm kick-off, Thomond Park) with a full deck as the northern province look to keep their play-off hopes alive.

While some recent Irish derbies have been marred by mismatched selections, there will be no such understrength panels in Limerick with both Les Kiss and Rassie Erasmus only injuries away from their first-choice line-ups, even with the hosts preparing for next week's Champions Cup semi-final with Saracens.

Ulster lost Jared Payne during last week's draw with Cardiff to an ankle injury, while other frontliners Marcell Coetzee and Kyle McCall have been on the sidelines long-term.

In a show of faith for the young starlet, it is Jacob Stockdale who takes the place of Payne at full-back, joining Charles Piutau and captain Andrew Trimble in the back-three.

That means there is only a bench spot for Craig Gilroy, the scorer of such a memorable try when Ulster won here in the 2012 Heineken Cup.

He is joined in the replacements by Stuart McCloskey who is in the 23 for the first time since early February after a calf problem.

In the only change to his pack, Chris Henry is fit again after a one-game absence, taking the place of Roger Wilson in the back-row.

With Clive Ross returning to the bench, Wilson has dropped out of the match-day squad.

The rest of the pack and forward replacements are unchanged, with Kiss seemingly having settled on young locks Alan O'Connor and Kieran Treadwell as his favoured second-row pairing.

For the hosts, Conor Murray is still absent as he battles to be fit for next week's clash with the European champions meaning Duncan Williams continues at nine with on-loan Ulster player Angus Lloyd on the bench.

But both Donnacha Ryan and Tyler Bleyendaal have been passed fit, however, having come through their return to play protocols.

Having missed the narrow win over Glasgow last time out, captain Peter O'Mahony and Tommy O'Donnell are both restored to the back-row while big name Irish internationals Simon Zebo and Keith Earls are brought into the back three.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph