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Ulster are itching to get down to business, says Billy Burns

Ulster v Glasgow, Pre-season warm-up: Kingspan Stadium, Today, 1.30pm

Ready: Billy Burns will captain Ulster in friendly against Glasgow today
Ready: Billy Burns will captain Ulster in friendly against Glasgow today
Kyle McCall

By Michael Sadlier

Ulster today begin another season and, as it's worked out, go up against the side that well and truly finished the last one for them on what was a grim evening in May at Scotstoun.

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This time a Glasgow Warriors, albeit well watered-down by the World Cup, come to the Kingspan (kick-off 1.30pm) for the first of two friendlies - next week it's in Scotland for the return gig - before the sides meet again, home and away in the New Year, when there will be rather more at stake in the PRO14.

And for those Ulster supporters not preferring to take in Ireland's last warm-up against Wales this afternoon, there will be a first chance to see notable new signings Matt Faddes, who starts at outside centre, and Wallaby lock Sam Carter who is benched.

Another unfamiliar face in Dan McFarland's 29-player squad is second row David O'Connor who will pack down alongside brother Alan.

Also on show is Craig Gilroy, who starts on the wing, and this will be his first game for nearly a year after suffering a back issue which sidelined him for virtually all of last season.

Also back from injury is loose-head prop Kyle McCall who broke down last January while James Hume also returns, and partners Faddes in midfield, after his season-ending injury last March.

However, there is no sign of tight-head prop Marty Moore in the squad.

John Cooney will also get game-time after being cut from the Ireland World Cup squad, and is on Ulster's 14-man bench.

Also awaiting introduction in what will probably be an extensive use of replacements from half-time are brothers Angus and Graham Curtis while Mattie and Marcus Rea, with the latter starting, make up the third set of brothers in the squad.

Michael Lowry starts at full-back, and with Angus Kernohan and Gilroy, is part of an attack-minded back three.

"It feels like forever since we played that game," recalled out-half and today's skipper Billy Burns of the thumping defeat Ulster suffered to Glasgow in last May's PRO14 semi-final.

And staying in the theme of the previous time the sides met, he adds, "It (the PRO14 semi-final in Glasgow) was tough, very tough.

"We didn't turn up. It was one of those where you either learn or you simply just park it.

"I think, for us, we definitely have learnt from it," the 25-year-old said of the 50-20 defeat.

There is certainly much to do to close the gap on Leinster and Glasgow who now happen to both be in the same PRO14 conference as McFarland's squad.

That alone looks rather forbidding but, perhaps, with the World Cup soon to kick-off, this season will allow an Ulster outfit, so far relatively unscathed regarding player absence at the tournament and with quality new signings Carter and Faddes on board, to get up and running in the PRO14 in robust fashion.

"Firstly everyone at the club is massively disappointed for those guys who have not gone," Burns says of the already returned Cooney and the soon to arrive Rob Herring, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy and Will Addison.

"But for us we also know that those guys are such valuable members of our squad and when they come back in they will maybe try and prove a few people wrong.

"Ultimately they are internationals and what they can add to this team is massive.

"I'm very disappointed for those guys not to be going, but I guess Ireland's loss is our gain and we look forward to getting those guys back in and obviously helping us out," he said of the impending PRO14 campaign which begins at the end of the month when the Ospreys rack up at the Kingspan.

For now, though, Burns just wants to get out there in a game situation, albeit a friendly against the Warriors.

"It's been an incredibly long pre-season but now we are just ready to play rugby," adds the out-half who begins his second season here after coming from Gloucester.

"It is not going to be perfect (today), we wouldn't expect it to be perfect for sure, but hopefully we can see little bits, and again next week that will help our attacking game going forward.

"We want to be a team that excites people, we want to be a team that when you watch us, play with that attacking mind-set and stretch teams and stress them," added Burns while also, of course, mentioning the need to try and win silverware.

Interestingly, his brother Freddie is likely to be in today's crowd ahead of the two potentially going head-to-head in November's European tie in Bath.

Ulster: M Lowry, C Gilroy, M Faddes, J Hume, A Kernohan, B Burns (capt), J Stewart; K McCall, A McBurney, R Kane, A O'Connor, D O'Connor, C Ross, Marcus Rea, G Jones

Subs: J Andrew, E O'Sullivan, T O'Toole, S Carter, K Treadwell, Matty Rea, S Reidy, N Timoney, D Shanahan, J Cooney, A Curtis, L Marshall, G Curtis, E McIlroy

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