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Uslter Rugby njury headache forces Anscombe to shuffle pack

By Niall Crozier

Only seven of those who started for Ulster against Saracens in Saturday night's dramatic Heineken Cup quarter-final clash are included in the starting 15 for tonight's PRO12 inter-pro meeting with Connacht at Ravenhill.

Out through injury are hooker Rory Best, tight-head John Afoa, lock Dan Tuohy, back row forward Roger Wilson and scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, while full-back Jared Payne is suspended.

Another of last weekend's starters – loose-head Tom Court – is named as one of the eight replacements, while outside-centre Darren Cave and blind-side flanker Stephen Ferris are rested.

That means the only survivors are in the pack are captain Johann Muller (lock), open-side Chris Henry and No 8 Nick Williams, with four players who were on the bench last time out promoted.

They are Rob Herring, who is in for Best (serious ankle sprain), Ricky Lutton who replaces Afoa (back disc) on the right-side of the front row, Iain Henderson who takes over from fractured hand victim Tuohy and Robbie Diack, who occupies the number six berth vacated by Wilson (thumb fracture).

Court's omission not only sees Andrew Warwick make his first start for Ulster but also means a completely changed front row.

Behind the scrum, four of last weekend's backs are retained, though in one case inclusion is in an entirely different role. Tommy Bowe is the man in question, switching from left wing to outside-centre. Craig Gilroy – another of last week's replacements – starts at 11.

Bowe's midfield partner is Luke Marshall, tonight making his 50th Ulster appearance – not bad for a 22-year-old.

Surprisingly, Andrew Trimble is retained at 14 despite having suffered concussion against Saracens. But having followed the necessary return-to-play protocols and passed fit to continue, he has been named once again on the right wing.

The much-changed back three is completed by Ricky Andrew.

Paul Marshall takes over from Pienaar, whose AC joint problem looks like keeping him out for the remainder of the season, a fate to which Ulster are already resigned in Best's case.

With Andrew, Herring, Lutton, Henderson, Diack, Paul Marshall and Gilroy, and Court stepping down, that means an all-new bench in Niall Annett, Court, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Sean Doyle, Michael Heaney, James McKinney and Stuart McCloskey.

Connacht coach Pat Lam said: "Ulster have suffered some injuries but they have such strength in depth. We expect them to come out even stronger."

Belfast Telegraph


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