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Nagle in the back row as Ulster gear up for crucial Pro14 clash

The northern province face Benetton in Belfast on Friday night.

ULSTER HEAD COACH Dan McFarland has made eight changes in personnel for tomorrow night’s crucial Pro14 encounter against Benetton, as the northern province bid to maintain their winning momentum heading into the mid-season break.

Having qualified for their first Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final in five years, Ulster’s attention now reverts to the Pro14 and Friday’s Conference B clash with the Italian visitors [KO 7.35pm, Premier Sports/eir Sport].

Ian Nagle Ian Nagle starts in the Ulster back row. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Without the likes of captain Rory Best, Jacob Stockdale, John Cooney, Will Addison, Jordi Murphy and Iain Henderson, Ulster’s squad depth will again be tested but McFarland has been able to retain a strong core to his side.

There are two changes in the backline from last week’s win at Welford Road, with Michael Lowry and James Hume returning to the starting XV at fullback and outside centre respectively.

Academy winger Robert Baloucoune, who scored the match-winning try against Leicester Tigers, retains his place while Louis Ludik shifts to the left wing.

Dave Shanahan and Billy Burns are retained in the half back positions, with Stuart McCloskey lining out at inside centre. 

Up front, Alan O’Connor takes over the captaincy from Best and partners Kieran Treadwell in the second row, with Andy Warwick and Rob Herring drafted into the front row to pack down alongside Marty Moore.

It’s a new-look back row unit with Ian Nagle deployed at blindside flanker, Nick Timoney named at openside and Greg Jones starting at the back of the scrum. 

Hooker John Andrew will win his 50th provincial cap if he’s called upon from the bench, which also includes the likes of Tom O’Toole, Jonny Stewart, Darren Cave and Rob Lyttle.

Leinster are runaway leaders in Conference B, but just two points separate the next four teams, with Edinburgh, Benetton, Scarlets and Ulster all chasing a top-three finish to secure a place in the end-of-season play-offs. 

Ulster have lost their two outings in the Pro14 — against Connacht and Leinster — while Benetton have lost just one of their last eight league and Challenge Cup fixtures, with the Italian club bidding for a third straight away win in a single season for the first time when they visit Kingspan Stadium.

While missing several of their Italian internationals, Benetton will be captained by out-half Ian McKinley.

Ulster:

15. Michael Lowry
14. Robert Baloucoune
13. James Hume
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Louis Ludik
10. Billy Burns
9. David Shanahan

1. Andrew Warwick
2. Rob Herring
3. Marty Moore
4. Alan O’Connor (captain)
5. Kieran Treadwell
6. Ian Nagle
7. Nick Timoney
8. Greg Jones

Replacements:

16. John Andrew
17. Wiehahn Herbst
18. Tom O’Toole
19. Matthew Dalton
20. Clive Ross
21. Jonny Stewart
22. Darren Cave
23. Robert Lyttle. 

Benetton:

15. Luca Sperandio
14. Ratuva Tavuyara
13. Tommaso Iannone
12. Marco Zanon
11. Monty Ioane
10 Ian McKinley (captain)
9. Dewaldt Duvenage

1. Nicola Quaglio
2. Hame Faiva
3. Marco Riccioni
4. Irne Herbst
5. Federico Ruzza
6. Marco Lazzaroni
7. Michele Lamora
8. Toa Halafihi.

Replacements:

16. Tomas Baravalle
17. Cherif Traore
18. Simone Ferrari
19. Marco Fuser
20. Giovanni Pettinelli
21. Marco Barbini
22. Edoardo Gori
23. Ignacio Brex.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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