Ulster v Munster team news: Ireland duo return for Ulster as Munster make sweeping changes for PRO14 trip to Kingspan Stadium
Ulster welcome Ireland stars Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale back into their squad for Friday evening's game against Munster but there is no place for Jordi Murphy ahead of the clash at Kingspan Stadium.
Rugby round up Newsletter
Captain Henderson comes in for his first PRO14 start of the season, while Stockdale is making only his second league appearance of the campaign.
The duo form two of the three changes Dan McFarland makes to the side that secured a bonus point success over Connacht.
However, it is Nick Timoney, rather than Murphy, that returns for the third alteration.
Marcell Coetzee is out as he goes through return to play protocols after the hit he sustained at the hands of Connacht prop Paddy McAllister last week.
Number eight Timoney is chosen as a direct replacement as there is no place in the panel for Murphy, who has not featured since playing 80 minutes in both of the Champions Cup games against Harlequins last month. The back row was also missing from Ireland's mid-season stocktake squad that met before Christmas.
Ulster's front row is unchanged from last week; Jack McGrath starts at loosehead, Rob Herring at hooker and Marty Moore at tighthead. Iain Henderson replaces Kieran Treadwell to start in the second row with Alan O’Connor.
Matthew Rea once again starts at blindside, as does last week’s man-of-the-Match Sean Reidy at openside, with Timoney coming in at number eight.
Stockdale is the only change to the starting back line, replacing Louis Ludik and joining up with fellow international Will Addison as well as Robert Baloucoune, who is excited at the prospect.
The familiar duo of Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall make up the midfield pairing as Billy Burns and John Cooney also maintain their starting half-back partnership.
That means Cooney will, as expected, be given the opportunity to face-off against Ireland's first choice number nine Conor Murray, who is included as one of ten changes to the Munster side that lost to Leinster last weekend. He partners Joey Carbery, who returns from his ankle injury to make his first start of the season at out-half.
Peter O'Mahony is named as captain while fellow Ireland internationals Niall Scannell, Rory Scannell, Andrew Conway and Keith Earls are all included.
Dave Kilcoyne is named among the replacements but there is no place in the squad for Chris Farrell, Jean Kleyn or CJ Stander.
Ulster will, of course, be looking to strengthen their second place in the PRO14's Conference A by picking up a second win from their festive interpros, having bounced back from defeat in Leinster with the win over Connacht.
The province currently sit 10 points clear of third-placed Cheetahs, although the South African side have two games in hand.
Munster are top of Conference B but, in a tightly packed table, are only five points clear of fourth-placed Connacht.
Friday’s game is heading towards another sell-out at Kingspan Stadium with over 17,000 tickets already sold.
Ulster team to play Munster
(15-9): Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney
(1-8): Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O'Connor, Iain Henderson (C), Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney
Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O'Toole, David O'Connor, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy
Munster team to play Ulster
(15-9): Shane Daly; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray
(1-8): Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Keynan Knox; Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue, Arno Botha
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Gavin Coombes, Jack O’Sullivan, Neil Cronin, Dan Goggin, Chris Cloete
Belfast Telegraph Digital