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All Black Piutau among three debutants in Ulster side

Brett Herron and Ross Kane will also earn their first caps against Newport Gwent Dragons as Les Kiss deals with a shortage at tighthead prop.

Charles Piutau in action in a pre-season match against Northampton
Charles Piutau in action in a pre-season match against Northampton
Image: Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO

ALL BLACK UTILITY back Charles Piutau will make his Ulster debut in their Pro12 opener against Newport Gwent Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast tomorrow night (7.35pm).

Piutau, who has played 16 times for New Zealand but failed to make the squad for last year’s Rugby World Cup success, is one of three debutants in Les Kiss’ side.

Academy prop Ross Kane and former Bath and England under-18 fly-half Brett Herron will also make their first competitive starts for Ulster. Herron, 20, is also qualified to play for Ireland.

Kiss is particularly low on options at tighthead prop with Rodney Ah You, Wiehahn Herbst, Ricky Lutton and Jonny Simpson ruled out through injury.

Kane, 21, will be joined in the front row by Callum Black and Rob Herring, who will again skipper the side from hooker.

Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe will continue their combination in the second row.

Sean Reidy’s inclusion at openside flanker leads to a re-shuffle in the back row, with Clive Ross moving to blindside and Roger Wilson continuing at number 8.

Herron will partner Ruan Pienaar, who yesterday revealed he will be leaving the club at the end of the season as the IRFU won’t offer him a contact extension in the halfbacks, while Ireland internationals Stuart McCloskey and Stuart Olding will join forces in midfield.

Piutau, Craig Gilroy and Ireland U20 star Jacob Stockdale will occupy the back three positions.

Louis Ludik was unavailable for selection because of a hand injury picked up against Northampton.

Ulster (v Dragons)

15. Charles Piutau
14. Craig Gilroy
13. Stuart Olding
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Brett Herron
9. Ruan Pienaar

1. Callum Black
2. Rob Herring (c)
3. Ross Kane
4. Pete Browne
5. Franco van der Merwe
6. Clive Ross
7. Sean Reidy
8. Roger Wilson

Replacements:

16. John Andrew
17. Kyle McCall
18. Andy Warwick
19. Alan O’Connor
20. Robbie Diack
21. Paul Marshall
22. Sam Windsor
23. Robert Lyttle

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Alan Waldron

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