Saturday 21 October 2017

Iain Henderson to captain Ulster for the first time in Champions Cup opener against Wasps

Iain Henderson of Ulster after the Ulster Rugby Press Conference at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Iain Henderson of Ulster after the Ulster Rugby Press Conference at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Iain Henderson will captain Ulster for the first time this Friday night in the side's Champions Cup opener against Wasps at Kingspan Stadium (7.45pm).

Henderson, with 77 Ulster caps to his name, will lead a starting XV that features 12 internationals and three changes from the win over Connacht.

Henderson move from blindside flanker to second row while two of the new faces are among the loose forwards. Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy are introduced alongside Jean Deysel, who will make his Champions Cup bow for Ulster.

John Cooney and Christian Lealiifano will also make their European debuts for the Province.

Kieran Treadwell will partner Henderson in the engine room, while the front row of Kyle McCall, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst is unchanged from last week's 16-8 win versus Connacht.

The one backline change sees Louis Ludik (right wing) earn selection in the back three along with Charles Piutau and Jacob Stockdale, who will be aiming to build on his strike rate of four tries in four games this season.

Cooney, a Heineken Cup winner with Leinster in 2012 with, is paired with Lealiifano at half-back for the sixth time, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall will combine in midfield once again.

John Andrew, Rodney Ah You, Paul Marshall and Pete Nelson again provide cover from the replacements bench, with Callum Black, Matty Rea, Clive Ross and Tommy Bowe also named in the match day 23.

Ulster Rugby team to play Wasps:

(1-8): K McCall, R Herring, W Herbst, K Treadwell, I Henderson (captain), R Diack, S Reidy, J Deysel;

(9-15): J Cooney, C Lealiifano, J Stockdale, S McCloskey, L Marshall, L Ludik, C Piutau;

Replacements (16-23): J Andrew, C Black, R Ah You, M Rea, C Ross, P Marshall, P Nelson, T Bowe.

Injury list

Rory Best (hamstring), Marcell Coetzee (knee), Craig Gilroy (back), Chris Henry (larynx), Rob Lyttle (shoulder), Al O'Connor (concussion), Jared Payne (headaches), Dave Shanahan (hamstring), Nick Timoney (ankle), Schalk van der Merwe (shoulder)

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