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Ulster duo handed first starts in Guinness Pro 14 trip to Dragons


Schalk van der Merwe.

Schalk van der Merwe.

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Schalk van der Merwe.

Two Ulster players will start their first senior games for the province during Friday evening's trip to take on Dragons.

Abbey Insurance Academy back row Greg Jones and South African prop Schalk van der Merwe have both been named in the line-up for the Guinness Pro14 trip to Rodney Parade on Friday night (kick-off 7.35pm, live on BBC2 NI).

The pair both made their debuts as replacements during last Friday evening's narrow victory over Benetton at Kingspan Stadium.

Van Der Merwe joined Ulster back in the summer but injury delayed the start to his career with the province. Jones, meanwhile, joined the Ulster Academy this season and plays his club rugby at Banbridge. He helped Ireland U20s to a famous victory over New Zealand in order to seal their place at the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship semi-finals and replaced the injured Clive Ross at Kingspan last week.

Also named in Les Kiss' starting XV are Stuart McCloskey and Sean Reidy, while Rory Best is named as a replacement after all three returned from international duty.

Paul Marshall, who won his 200th cap last week, will start at scrumhalf, while Christian Lealiifano reverts to flyhalf and retains the captaincy duties.

McCloskey will partner Tommy Bowe in midfield and Craig Gilroy, Louis Ludik and Charles Piutau will form a potent back three combination.

The only change in the front five sees van der Merwe included, as John Andrew, Ross Kane, Alan O'Connor and Kieran Treadwell retain their places within the team. Jones and Reidy will join Nick Timoney in the back row.

Chris Henry has recovered from injury to take his place on the bench alongside fellow forwards Best, Callum Black, Andy Warwick and Matthew Dalton.

John Cooney, Peter Nelson and Andrew Trimble complete the match day 23.

Ulster Rugby team to play Dragons

(1-8): S van der Merwe, J Andrew, R Kane, A O'Connor, K Treadwell, G Jones, S Reidy, N Timoney;

(9-15): P Marshall, C Lealiifano; L Ludik, S McCloskey, T Bowe, C Gilroy, C Piutau.

Replacements (16-23): R Best, C Black, A Warwick, M Dalton, C Henry, J Cooney, P Nelson, A Trimble.

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