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Ulster ace John Cooney leads trio of stars back for Clermont

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 07: John Cooney of Ulster celebrates with his team mates after the Heineken Champions Cup Round 3 match between Ulster Rugby and Harlequins at Ravenhill Stadium on December 7, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 07: John Cooney of Ulster celebrates with his team mates after the Heineken Champions Cup Round 3 match between Ulster Rugby and Harlequins at Ravenhill Stadium on December 7, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster have been handed a huge triple boost ahead of their Heineken Champions Cup clash with Clermont Auvergne at the Stade Marcel-Michelin on Saturday (1pm kick-off).

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The province head to France knowing that a win would see them through to the knockout stages of Europe for the second season in a row, while also serving to keep them in the box seat to bring a last-eight tie to Belfast for just the third time.

And coach Dan McFarland is now aware he'll be able to call upon a key trio for the trip to face the Top 14 giants.

John Cooney, arguably the best performer in the competition this season, will be fit to play despite departing the win over Munster last Friday night for a Head Injury Assessment, while the back-row will be considerably bolstered too.

Influential No.8 Marcell Coetzee has been passed fit after undergoing the return to play protocols following injury against Connacht in the side's post-Christmas fixture.

The Springbok figures to come straight back in at the base of the Ulster scrum, where he may well pack down alongside openside flanker Jordi Murphy.

The Irish international, who won this competition with Leinster back in 2018, missed the game with Munster due to illness and hasn't taken to the pitch since the win over Harlequins in London during December, but is once again ready to go.

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