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Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale have returned to the Ulster starting XV. They are two of three changes made by Dan McFarland to the side that recorded a bonus-point victory against Connacht last weekend.
Stockdale is the only change to the starting backline, coming in on the left wing alongside Will Addison at full-back and Robert Baloucoune on the right wing. The familiar duo of Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall make up the midfield pairing. Billy Burns and John Cooney also maintain their starting half-back partnership.
The front row is unchanged from last week. Jack McGrath starts at loosehead, Rob Herring at hooker and Marty Moore starts in the tighthead position. Henderson resumes the captaincy and starts in the second row with Alan O’Connor. Matthew Rea once again starts at blindside, as does last week’s man-of-the-match Sean Reidy at openside. Nick Timoney is at No8.
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Joey Carbery, meanwhile, is set to start his first match for Munster since their May 2019 Guinness PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster in Dublin. The out-half, who limped off before half-time in a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Edinburgh the month prior to that loss in Dublin, has continued to endure an injury-hit campaign this season.
Stretchered away from Ireland’s World Cup warm-up win over Italy last August, he made it back to make three appearances off the bench at the finals in Japan for Ireland.
“PRO14 rugby is much more exciting than Premiership rugby, has been for years."
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 29, 2019
However, he returned to Limerick with an aggravation of his ankle injury that has only recently come right. He appeared as a replacement in last weekend’s PRO14 loss to Leinster and will now wear the No10 shirt. His comeback – if successful – could be very timely for Ireland given that Johnny Sexton, the talisman Carbery shadowed at the World Cup, has been injured since early December.
Carbery is one of ten changes to Munster’s starting line-up as they head to Belfast, Shane Daly, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Fineen Wycherley and Jack O’Donoghue the five to keep their places. Peter O’Mahony returns to captain the side with Andrew Conway and Keith Earls coming into the side on the wings.
ULSTER: Will Addison; Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (capt), Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney. Reps: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy.
MUNSTER: Shane Daly; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Keynan Knox, Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Arno Botha. Reps: Diarmuid Barron, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Gavin Coombes, Jack O’Sullivan, Neil Cronin, Dan Goggin, Chris Cloete.
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