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Ulster v Connacht team news: Baloucoune and McGrath return as Ulster make 13 changes for PRO14 clash at Kingspan Stadium

Robert Baloucoune is back for Ulster.
Robert Baloucoune is back for Ulster.

Robert Baloucoune and Jack McGrath have both returned from injury to start for Ulster as the province have made a host of changes for Friday evening's visit of Connacht.

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Baloucoune has played only 89 minutes of rugby so far this season as a knee injury spoiled the first half of his campaign while McGrath hasn't featured in over a month after undergoing surgery on his thumb.

Plenty of senior names are back in the line-up for Connacht's trip to Belfast (kick-off 7.35pm) as Ulster make as many as 13 changes to the shadow side that suffered defeat to Leinster, Alan O'Connor and Matthew Rea the only survivors.

In a wholly altered back line, Will Addison is back from suspension to start at full-back, with Baloucoune partnering Louis Ludik on the wings.

Lyke Marshall joins Stuart McCloskey in midfield while the recognised half-back pairing of Billy Burns and John Cooney is back together.

In the pack, captain Rob Herring returns to the front line alongside McGrath and Marty Moore, who were all at Ireland's mid-season stock-take.

Alan O'Connor is this time partnered by Kieran Treadwell at lock while Sean Reidy and Marcell Coetzee join Rea in the back row.

On the bench, Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor and Nick Timoney provide the forwards reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Bill Johnston and Craig Gilroy covering the backline.

Connacht, meanwhile, include three of the five players they sent to the Ireland stock-take, with Caolin Blade, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan all named to start, along with former Ulster prop Paddy McAllister.

Over 17,000 tickets have already been sold for the contest, which is heading towards​​ a sell-out.

Ulster team to play Connacht

(15-9): Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8): Jack McGrath, Rob Herring (Capt), Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy.

Connacht team to play Ulster

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Capt);

(1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Stephen Kerins, Kyle Godwin, Stephen Fitzgerald.

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