Ulster boosted by Burns' return for do-or-die clash with Harlequins

Star men Iain Henderson and Marcell Coetzee are missing from the match day squad but Quins have rested nine key players including Joe Marler and Danny Care.

Burns will aim to steer Ulster to success.
Burns will aim to steer Ulster to success.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

FIRST THE GOOD news. Ulster will have Billy Burns in their side to face Harlequins this Sunday in the Challenge Cup Round of 16 clash at Twickenham Stoop (kick-off 8pm, BT Sport). Now the bad: Iain Henderson and Marcell Coetzee are both absent.

The team has been bolstered by the inclusion of some of their Irish internationals in the starting XV.

Jacob Stockdale comes in to start on the left wing, joining Michael Lowry who switches to full-back, and Robert Baloucoune on the right wing. Billy Burns returns to the side to partner John Cooney at half-back. Stuart McCloskey also comes back into midfield with James Hume.

In the front row, Rob Herring returns from Ireland duties to pack down at hooker, with Eric O’Sullivan at loosehead and Marty Moore at tighthead prop.

Alan O’Connor will partner Kieran Treadwell in the engine room. Sean Reidy is named at blindside, with skipper, Jordi Murphy at openside and Nick Timoney completing the forwards at Number Eight.

Cormac Izuchukwu could make his European debut if called upon from the bench, and is joined by John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, and Matty Rea in the forwards. Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan and Ethan McIlroy provide the back line options.

Quins, meanwhile, have left off a number of big players including England’s Joe Marler, South African prop, Wilco Louw, fellow Springbok, Stephan Lewies, flankers Will Evans and Alex Dombrandt, veteran scrum half Danny Care, precocious Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant or Mike Brown.

harlequins-joe-marler Joe Marler has not been picked for Quins. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

They do welcome back a host of players as the Club returns to European action this weekend, with Scotland internationals James Lang and Scott Steele returning to the starting line-up for the first time since the end of the 2021 Six nations. Further returns come in first starts for Elia Elia, Santiago Garcia Botta, Will Collier, Nathan Earle, and Paul Lasike since their respective returns from injury earlier this season to boost the side.

Number eight Tom Lawday captains the side this weekend, leading the Club for the second time since joining in 2019. The back-rower previously captained Harlequins away to Worcester Warriors towards the end of the 2019/20 season.

Senior Academy locks and former England U20 teammates George Hammond and Hugh Tizard reunite to start in the engine room, with Hammond earning his first senior start for the Club in what will be his fourth appearance.

Meanwhile, fellow academy forward Jack Kenningham earns a start at openside flanker following an impressive debut away to Newcastle Falcons last month, with back row Will Evans among a host of players rested this week.

Fly-half Brett Herron earns his first start of the season from the ten jersey while exciting outside back Tyrone Green is handed his first opportunity starting at fullback.

Amongst the Impact Players, Harlequins Academy duo Matas Jurevicius and Jack Stafford will make their senior Club debuts from the bench.

Ahead of the Easter Sunday clash in Twickenham, Lineout and Defence Coach Jerry Flannery said: “It was a tough loss to take at the final whistle in Bristol last weekend, but we were pretty fast in getting some perspective on that loss and the defeat earlier last month against Exeter. We’ve lost two games against the top two sides in what is a tough, attritional league by fine margins.

“In reality, those two sides are probably further along their journey than we are, and we’ve come a long way in a short space of time.

“With the Pro14 playoffs decided earlier than they usually would be, we know that Ulster will be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us this week. We know they have some real game-changers, and we’ll be ready to face them.

“We have some incredibly skilled players ourselves this week and will be looking to continue our fine attacking form.”

Ulster team to play Harlequins:

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

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(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy (Capt.), Nick Timoney.

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.


1. Santiago Garcia Botta (29)
2. Elia Elia (64)
3. Will Collier (177)
4. Hugh Tizard (8)
5. George Hammond (3)
6. Archie White (37)
7. Jack Kenningham (2)
8. Tom Lawday (28) – Captain

9. Scott Steele (12)
10. Brett Herron (18)
11. Nathan Earle (35)
12. Paul Lasike (27)

13. James Lang (75)

14. Luke Northmore (17)
15. Tyrone Green (10)

16. George Head (2)
17. Jordan Els (13)
18. Simon Kerrod (41)
19. Tevita Cavubati (21)
20. Matas Jurevicius (0)
21. Jack Stafford (0)
22. Ben Tapuai (37)
23. Ross Chisholm (122)

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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