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Ulster and Leinster both change entire starting sides as Academy flanker Rea set for senior debut

Ulster’s Marcus Rea scores his side’s first try against Gloucester during last summer's Chris Henry testimonial
Ulster’s Marcus Rea scores his side’s first try against Gloucester during last summer's Chris Henry testimonial
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Ulster's game at home to Leinster on Saturday will mean little with the province's second spot in the Guinness PRO14's Conference B already secure.

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That was never more evident than when casting an eye over the squad lists for the game as both Dan McFarland and Leo Cullen have changed their entire starting XVs.

Ulster scored a bonus point victory in Edinburgh last time out and Nick Timoney and Rob Lyttle are the only members of the starting side at Murrayfield that maintain their place in the squad, both named among the replacements.

No starters from Leinster's 30-12 Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse last weekend are in the match-day panel.

All of the focus, of course, is already on Ulster's home quarter-final against Connacht a week later while Leinster await their home semi-final.

It could be a special day for the Rea family with Academy back row Marcus in line for his competitive senior debut as a replacement with his brother Matty named in the starting side. The pair have already played alongside one another in an Ulster shirt, lining up side by side in the November friendly win over Urugary.

Darren Cave, as expected, will captain the side at Kingspan Stadium and is joined in the centre by Peter Nelson.

Winger David Busby will make his first appearance of the season after suffering a knee-injury in pre-season. The utility back has previously played four games and scored a try on his debut against Zebre in February 2017. He is joined in the back line by Angus Kernohan and full-back Michael Lowry, who have made a combined total of 30 appearances to date this season.

Johnny McPhillips partners Dave Shanahan in the half-back positions.

Andy Warwick, John Andrew and Ross Kane are selected in the front row, with on-loan Ian Nagle, who is eligible to play against his former club care of a special arrangement, and Alan O’Connor ready to offer support from the second row. Matty Rea, Clive Ross and Sean Reidy complete the forward pack.

Tommy O’Hagan and Jack Owens could make just their second appearances after being named among the replacements alongside Rea. Adam McBurney, Tom O’Toole, Timoney, Jonny Stewart and Lyttle are the other options on the bench.

For Leinster, Jack McGrath will start the game as he gets to grips with his new home stadium ahead of his summer switch to Ulster.

Ulster team to face Leinster

(15-9): Michael Lowry; David Busby, Darren Cave (captain), Peter Nelson, Angus Kernohan; Johnny McPhillips, Dave Shanahan;

(1-8): Andy Warwick, John Andrew, Ross Kane, Ian Nagle, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, Clive Ross, Sean Reidy;

Replacements (16-23): Adam McBurney, Tommy O’Hagan, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney, Marcus Rea, Jonny Stewart, Jack Owens, Rob Lyttle.

Leinster team to face Ulster

(15-9): Jimmy O’Brien, Fergus McFadden, Joe Tomane, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne (captain), Nick McCarthy

(1-8): Jack McGrath, Bryan Byrne, Michael Bent, Josh Murphy, Oisín Dowling, Max Deegan, Will Connors, Caelan Doris

Replacements (16-23): Rónan Kelleher, Peter Dooley, Vakh Abdaladze, Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Paddy Patterson, Ciarán Frawley, Barry Daly

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