Leinster v Ulster team news: Four Ulster players set for debuts in shuffled side while Leinster name strong squad featuring eight internationals
Ulster could field as many as four debutants against a strong Leinster outfit during Friday evening's PRO14 clash as Dan McFarland rings the changes ahead of the first festive interprovincial fixture.
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With back-to-back home ties against Connacht and Munster to follow, the head coach was always expected to shuffle his pack for the notoriously difficult trip south and he did just that, making 14 changes to the starting XV from last weekend's European win at Harlequins.
Matt Faddes is the sole survivor for Friday's game at the RDS (kick-off 7.35pm) while all four of the players potentially making their senior bow are named among the replacements. Academy prospects Jack Regan, Azur Allison and Stewart Moore and joined by sub-Academy back three star Ethan McIlroy.
Leinster, meanwhile, have named a much more experienced line-up, with no fewer than EIGHT internationals. Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Robbie Henshaw, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter all start, backed up by fellow Ireland players Cian Healy and Josh van der Flier on the bench. The side is led by Australian-capped Scott Fardy.
By comparison, Craig Gilroy is the only international in Ulster's panel. Given that the northern province have won only once in Leinster this century, it's a fearsome task facing McFarland's much-changed side.
Alan O'Connor will captain Ulster for his 100th appearance, fittingly joined in the second row by brother David O'Connor, making his first start since his summer arrival.
In the back three, Rob Lyttle makes his return, this time to the full-back position. He will be joined by Craig Gilroy and Angus Kernohan on the right and left wings. Faddes makes a positional switch to outside centre and will pair up with Angus Curtis in midfield.
Bill Johnston will make his fourth start of the season at fly-half while David Shanahan gets the starting berth at scrum-half.
In the pack, Andrew Warwick, Adam McBurney and Tom O’Toole make up the starting front row. Matthew Rea and Nick Timoney have been selected to start on the flanks, with Greg Jones completing the base of the scrum.
John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane and Jonny Stewart join the potential debutants among the replacements.
Tommy O'Brien, named as Leinster's outside centre, is the only player in the home side's panel that is making his senior bow.
Ulster team to play Leinster
(15-9): Rob Lyttle, Craig Gilroy, Matt Faddes, Angus Curtis, Angus Kernohan, Bill Johnston, David Shanahan.
(1-8): Andrew Warwick, Adam McBurney, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Alan O’Connor (C), Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Greg Jones.
Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Jack Regan, Azur Allison, Jonny Stewart, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy.#
Leinster team to play Ulster
(15-9): Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Tommy O’Brien, Robbie Henshaw, Cian Kelleher, Harry Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park,
(1-8): Peter Dooley, Seán Cronin, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Josh Murphy, Will Connor, Scott Penny, Max Deegan
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Cian Healy, Jack Aungier, Oisín Dowling, Josh van der Flier, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciarán Frawley, Conor O’Brien
Belfast Telegraph Digital