The Ulster men are back in action in front of a home crowd as they look to take on Interpro rivals Munster at a packed-out Kingspan Stadium this Sunday (KO 5 15pm) in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.
Following a festive fixture which saw Dan McFarland’s men inching the win at The Sportsground against Connacht, the province will be looking to back it up this weekend against another Interprovincial rival to start the new year off as they mean to go on.
The last remaining tickets for Sunday’s game can be found at ulster.rugby/buytickets.
With seven wins out of nine, Ulster are sat in third place in this season’s BKT United Rugby Championship, while Munster uncharacteristically are lagging behind in eleventh place, and will no doubt be stinging from a one-point defeat to Leinster in Round 10 at Thomond Park.
Not long ago, it was Ulster who walked away with a similar win in Limerick, but Forwards Coach, Roddy Grant, is expecting a different challenge to what the side faced back in October:
“Munster will be coming after us after we beat them at Thomond Park last time we met. We will be looking to put out our strongest team on Sunday, as we want to get a win in front of our supporters at home. We’ll be backing ourselves.”
The club will hold a moment’s silence ahead of kick-off to mark the passing of former Ulster, Ireland, and British and Irish Lions player, Ronnie Lamont MBE. The club remembers his contribution to the game in this week’s programme.
Ulster welcomes back raft of players from injury
As the province faces up to another tough challenge, Dan McFarland will be glad to welcome back Sean Reffell, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale, James Hume, and Rob Baloucoune.
After an injury in the warm-up at Thomond Park prevented Reffell from lining-out last time against Munster, he is given the nod at openside flanker, and is paired with Greg Jones, while World Cup-winning Springbok, Duane Vermeulen, is set to pull on the number eight jersey.
Leading the side out in front of a home crowd will be Iain Henderson, with fellow Irish international, Kieran Treadwell, joining him in the second row.
In a front row that is unchanged from the victory over Connacht, Henderson’s fellow Lions tourist, Rory Sutherland, retains his starting position at loosehead prop, with Marty Moore at tighthead, and last weekend’s Player of the Match following a brace of tries, Tom Stewart, completing the line-up.
Following a spell out with injury, Jacob Stockdale is back, and makes up a young home grown back three alongside Rob Baloucoune, who is also making a return, and another Ulster Rugby Academy graduate, Stewart Moore.
James Hume reignites his centre partnership with Stuart McCloskey, with another familiar pairing in John Cooney and Billy Burns named at scrum half and fly half respectively.
Forward cover comes from John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Sam Carter, and Jordi Murphy. The backline bench sees Nathan Doak, Jake Flannery, and Ethan McIlroy get the call-up.
Ulster team to play Munster, BKT United Rugby Championship Round 11, Sunday 1 January at Kingspan Stadium (KO 5 15pm), live on Viaplay, TG4 and URC.tv.
(15-9): Stewart Moore, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney;
(1-8): Rory Sutherland, Tom Stewart, Marty Moore, Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (Captain), Greg Jones, Sean Reffell, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Sam Carter, Jordi Murphy, Nathan Doak, Jake Flannery, Ethan McIlroy.
The Opposition - Munster Rugby
(15-9): Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Antoine Frisch, Malakai Fekitoa, Keith Earls; Jack Crowley, Paddy Patterson;
(1-8): Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Roman Salanoa; Jean Kleyn, Kiran McDonald; Jack O’Donoghue (C), Alex Kendellen, Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: Scott Buckley, Josh Wycherley, Stephen Archer, Cian Hurley, Jack O’Sullivan, Conor Murray, Ben Healy, Patrick Campbell.