Ulster and Connacht have named their respective sides for their Guinness PRO14 quarter-final clash at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Saturday (KO 5.35 pm).
This eagerly anticipated matchup is the highlight of this weekend’s action as Dan McFarland and Andy Friend choose their teams who they hope will secure a spot in the last four.
For Ulster, it will be an emotional day for both Rory Best and Darren Cave as the duo will line out in front of the Kingspan support for the last time. Best will retire at the end of the World Cup while Cave will call it a day once Ulster’s season is complete. Best has been named to start while Cave is on the bench.
Best will be joined in the front row by Eric O’Sullivan and Ross Kane. Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell will pack down in the second-row while McFarland has named a back-row of Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee.
John Cooney and Billy Burns renew their halfback partnership while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall form a physical midfield pairing. Robert Baloucoune and Rob Lyttle have been named on the wings while the exciting Michael Lowry is at fullback. Unfortunately for Ulster, Jacob Stockdale misses out with a hamstring issue.
Ulster: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Best (captain), R Kane, I Henderson, K Treadwell, N Timoney, J Murphy, M Coetzee;
Replacements: R Herring, A Warwick, T O’Toole, A O’Connor, S Reidy, D Shanahan, D Cave, A Kernohan.
Connacht have made eight changes to the team which lost out to Munster at Thomond Park last weekend.
Jack Carty is one of those changes and he returns to the side to join Kieran Marmion in the half-backs. Connacht’s midfield partnership is made up of Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell while Friend has named a back-three of Matt Healy, Stephen Fitzgerald and Tiernan O’Halloran.
Up front, Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham make up the front-row as Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury pack down in the second-row. Connacht have named a back-row of Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a and captain Jarrad Butler at number eight.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Darragh Leader.