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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 18 January, 2019
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Baloucoune back from ban to make European debut in Ulster's daunting date with Racing

Simon Zebo will start opposite Jacob Stockdale as last season’s runners-up bid to seal their passage to the knockout stage.

Robert Baloucoune touches down against Munster.
Robert Baloucoune touches down against Munster.
Image: Inpho/Billy Stickland

WING ROBERT BALOUCOUNE will return from suspension to win his Heineken Champions Cup debut when Ulster host Racing 92 at Kingspan Stadium tomorrow (kick-off 15.15).

The Fermanagh flyer was given a two-week suspension for his early aerial challenge on Munster’s Darren Sweetnam in the pre-Christmas win over the southern province. After scoring twice in that game, he will form a back three with Jacob Stockdale and Louis Ludik outside international centres Will Addison and Stuart McCloskey.

Head coach Dan McFarland has made wholesale changes from the squad sent to face Leinster last weekend. Only Sean Reidy and Alan O’Connor retain a starting berth for the visit of the Paris giants.

Ulster’s Rory Best Rory Best made a telling impact off the bench against Munster. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Rory Best returns to captain the side, with Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee again slotting in along side Reidy

 Thanks to back-to-back bonus point wins over the Scarlets last month, Ulster enter round 5 in good shape in Pool 4 and a bonus point win over Racing could take them level on points with last year’s European runners-up.

Racing are not sparing the horses for the task. However, Donnacha Ryan has not shaken off a knee issue in time to travel to Ulster. Leone Nakarawa will partner Bernard Le Roux in the second row, forming the core of a powerful pack with Wenceslas Lauret, Baptiste Chouzenoux and Antonie Claassen in the back row.

Simon Zebo Zebo warming up ahead of the win over Leicester. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Maxime Machenaud and Finn Russell will stand opposite John Cooney and Billy Burns, while loss of Teddy Thomas to injury sees Simon Zebo partnered by Brice Dulin and Juan Imhoff in the back three.

Ulster

15. Louis Ludik
14. Robert Baloucoune
13. Will Addison
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Billy Burns
9.John Cooney

1. Eric O’Sullivan
2. Rory Best
3. Marty Moore
4. Alan O’Connor
5. Kieran Treadwell
6. Sean Reidy
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Marcell Coetzee

Replacements:

16. Rob Herring
17. Andy Warwick
18. Ross Kane
19. Ian Nagle
20. Nick Timoney
21. Dan Shanahan
22. Mike Lowry
23. Darren Cave

Racing 92

15. Brice Dulin
14. Simon Zebo
13. Virimi Vakatawa
12. Henry Chavancy
11. Juan Imhoff
10. Finn Russell
9. Mxime Machenaud

1. Guram Gogichashvili
2. Dimitri Szarzewski (Captain)
3. Ben Tameifuna
4. Bernard Le Roux
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Baptiste Chouzenoux
8. Antonie Claassen

Replacements
16. Teddy Bauigny
17. Vasil Kakovin
18. Georges-Henri Colombe-Reazel
19. Brois Palu
20. Fabien Sanconnie
21. Teddy Iribarien
22. Olivier Klemenczak
23. Ben Volavola

Ahead of a huge weekend of Heineken Champions Cup action, Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey assess the provinces’ chances of putting a foot in the last eight:


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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