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No shortage of intent in Connacht XV, but Ulster leave some big guns at home for Toulon trip

Jared Payne starts for the northern province with Rory Best, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy left out of the squad.

Image: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

ROGER WILSON WILL captain Ulster this weekend after head coach Neil Doak made seven changes to his side for the Champions Cup meeting with Toulon.

Having lost three of their four games so far in the competition, the northern province are already out of the running for quarter-final qualification before visiting the home of the back-to-back Heineken Cup champions.

Jared Payne returns to start his first fixture since Ireland’s win over South Africa in November with Louis Ludik replacing Tommy Bowe on the right wing and  Michael Allen coming in for Craig Gilroy on the opposite flank.

Ulster have taken the opportunity to rest captain Rory Best for the trip to France with Rob Herring at hooker between props Andrew Warwick and Bronson Ross.

Those switches aside, Ulster retain strong units around the field: Ruan Pienaar with Paddy Jackson at half-back, Darren Cave winning his 150th cap alongside Stuart Olding in the centre and Franco van der Merwe returning in place of the injured Dan Tuohy.

In the Challenge Cup meanwhile, Connacht have once again named a potent team for their home fixture against Exeter Chiefs.

Craig Ronaldson will steer the side from number 10 outside of Kieran Marmion with Matt Healy coming back in to the fray on the left wing.

Dave McSharry gets his feet under the table at inside centre along side Robbie Henshaw with injury to Bundee Aki seeming to promise him a run of games in greenLam cited the importance of McSharry to his team after the 24-year-old agreed to a new two-year contract today.

“The fact that Robbie (Henshaw) is likely to be away with Ireland leading up to a World Cup year and with the recent injury to Bundee, it just highlights the importance of having quality experienced players across the squad.”

The Dubliner added his delight at confirmation of his place in the western province squad for what will be a total of six years.

“I’ve been here four years now and it’s very much home for me. A lot has changed since 2011 when I first came in but without a doubt we’ve been building bit by bit and getting closer and closer to achieving great things.

“It’s a really exciting time to be involved for everyone and I’m looking forward to seeing where we can go as a club.

“On a personal level, it’s been a good season so far and I’m really enjoying being part of a team with huge aspirations. I feel I am still improving as a player and it’s great that we have a squad of young players who are challenging each other week in week out for a starting spot.”

Ulster team (v Toulon)

15. Jared Payne

14. Louis Ludik

13. Darren Cave

12. Stuart Olding

11. Michael Allen

10. Paddy Jackson

9. Ruan Pienaar

1. Andrew Warwick

2. Rob Herring

3. Bronson Ross

4. Alan O’Connor

5. Franco van der Merwe

6. Clive Ross

7. Mike McComish

8. Roger Wilson (Capt.)

Replacements:

16. John Andrew

17. Callum Black

18. Declan Fitzpatrick

19. Lewis Stevenson

20. Robbie Diack

21. Paul Marshall

22. Ian Humphreys

23. Michael Heaney.

Connact team (v Exeter Chiefs)

15. Mils Muliaina
14. Danie Poolman
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Dave McSharry
11. Matt Healy
10. Craig Ronaldson
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Rodney Ah You
4. Quinn Roux
5. Aly Muldowney
6. John Muldoon (Capt)
7. Willie Faloon
8. George Naoupu

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan
17. JP Cooney
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Andrew Browne
20. Eoin McKeon
21. Caolin Blade
22. Jack Carty
23. Darragh Leader

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Sean Farrell

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