Saturday 24 February 2018

Ulster and Connacht name strong starting XVs for first inter-pro derby of the season Newsdesk Newsdesk

Both Ulster and Connacht have named strong teams for tomorrow night's meeting at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast (kick-off 7.35pm).

Ulster haven't lost to Connacht at home in 57 years and Les Kiss' side won't be keen on that run ending.

Marcel Coetzee is a name missing from the matchday 23 after he was worryingly forced to return to South Africa after his left knee flared up.

Chris Henry captains the side from openside alongside Iain Henderson at blindside and Jean Deysel at number 8.

The front five includes props Kyle McCall and Wiehahn Herbst either side of Rob Herrring. Alan O'Connor and Kieran Treadwell form the second row partnership.

Ulster look to have a lot of potent weaponry in the backline. John Cooney will hope to provide the ammunition for flyhalf Christian Lealiifano.

In-form Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall are in the centres, with Jakob Stockdale and Tommy Bowe on the wings.

The mercurial Charles Piutau is at full-back.

For Connacht, Kieran Marmion will make his 100th appearance for the province.

Head Coach Kieran Keane includes captain John Muldoon and Ireland scrum-half Marmion in the starting XV along with Matt Healy as the winger has recovered from a groin injury.

Tiernan O’Halloran moves to full-back having scored two tries against Scarlets last time out with Cian Kelleher, also a try-scorer last week, on the right wing.

Tom Farrell and Bundee Aki form the centre partnership. Aki has played every single minute for Connacht so far this season and Farrell’s four offloads last week were more than any other PRO14 player in round five.

Marmion, who has made more passes than any other player so far this season (405), teams up with Jack Carty in the half-backs with the out-half the PRO14’s fifth top scorer on 39 points.

Hooker Tom McCartney is flanked by Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham in the front row as the second row partnership of Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux remains intact.

Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler and Muldoon form the Connacht back-row.

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