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Kiss' men down to bare bones for huge clash

By Jonathan Bradley

With key men losing fitness battles for both sides, Ulster's hosting of Leinster at Kingspan Stadium tonight (6.30pm) will see neither side close to full strength.

The hosts are down three scrum-halves after John Cooney couldn't overcome a chest injury and, as such, Aaron Cairns, whose only previous senior experience came with a cameo on the wing last year, will start the game in the nine jersey.

The Ballynahinch clubman is still more experienced than his understudy with the uncapped Jonny Stewart on the bench should cover be required.

Ulster are also short their first-choice props with both Kyle McCall and Wiehahn Herbst missing out, Callum Black and Rodney Ah You taking their places either side of Rory Best who makes his first start of the season after appearing from the bench against La Rochelle six days ago following hamstring trouble.

With Ireland squad member Kieran Treadwell on the bench, Alan O'Connor and Iain Henderson are in the engine room, the latter keeping the captaincy despite Best's return to the starting line-up.

Jean Deysel is fit enough to regain his place in the back-row after missing last week and he is joined by Chris Henry and Sean Reidy in the loose forward unit.

Cairns will at least have experienced Wallaby Christian Leali'ifano for company in the half-back positions after Ulster's number 10 overcame a hamstring complaint.

Man of the moment Jacob Stockdale is back on the left wing after settling for a place on the bench at the Stade Marcel Deflandre, linking up with All Black Charles Piutau and Tommy Bowe in the back-three.

In midfield, it is the now familiar combo of Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall, the former having earned a recall this week to the Ireland squad for the Autumn Internationals.

For Leinster, Leo Cullen makes 12 changes from the side who rounded out an eye-catching start in Europe last weekend.

Gone from that win over Glasgow are the likes of Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Scott Fardy with only Devin Toner, Noel Reid and Tadhg Furlong retained as starters.

Belfast Telegraph

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