Springbok back row bruiser Marcell Coetzee has found himself in a usual position: he’s been benched by Ulster. According to the Belfast Telegraph, this will be the first time that Coetzee has ever started on the bench for Ulster since joining in 2016.

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Ulster take on Munster at the Kingspan this evening and not having the talismanic South African in the starting fifteen might normally be a bit of a head-scratcher, if it weren’t for the events of the last week or so.

It was revealed on Christmas Eve that the Bulls had secured his signature and the big Bok will now return to his native lands. Whether head coach Dan McFarland is preparing for life after Coetzee is unclear, as the forward had missed the side’s last two matches due to injury.

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The starting Ulster XV sees ten changes to the side that defeated Connacht last Sunday. Jacob Stockdale returns to assume the full-back role and will be joined on the wings by Ethan McIlroy and Matt Faddes. Stuart McCloskey comes in to partner James Hume in midfield. Billy Burns and John Cooney return to make up the half-back pairing this week.

In the front row, Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore will pack down at loosehead and tighthead prop, with Rob Herring at hooker. Sam Carter will captain the Ulster men from the second row, and will pair up with Kieran Treadwell. Academy back-row, David McCann will make his first senior start for Ulster at openside flanker, and will be joined by Matty Rea at blindside and Nick Timoney at No.8.

Ulster Academy loosehead, Callum Reid could make his senior debut if called upon, and is named alongside Adam McBurney, Tom O’Toole and David O’Connor in the forward replacements. Reid’s Academy colleague, scrum-half Nathan Doak could also make his debut from the bench – he is named with Ian Madigan and last week’s debutant, Ben Moxham, in the back line reinforcements.

Ulster team to play Munster:
Jacob Stockdale
Matt Faddes
James Hume
Stuart McCloskey
Ethan McIlroy
Billy Burns
John Cooney
Eric O’Sullivan
Rob Herring
Marty Moore
Kieran Treadwell
Sam Carter (Capt.)
Matty Rea
David McCann
Nick Timoney.

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Replacements: Adam McBurney, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Marcell Coetzee, Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

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