THERE are five changes and two positional switches in a strong Ulster Ravens side which travels to play Bristol in the second Pool One British & Ireland Cup clash on Sunday (3pm).
All five newcomers to the team have featured prominently for the senior side so far this season, Michael Allen, Luke Marshall and Michael Heaney in the backs, and Robbie Diack and Adam Macklin in the forwards - a major statement of intent by coach, Allen Clarke.
Diack is named in an impressive back row alongside Ali Birch, and Roger Wilson, who is continuing his return to action following a hamstring tear.
Macklin comes in at tighthead prop to join fellow Belfast Harlequins front rowers Niall Annett and Richard Lutton. Alan O’Connor and Neil McComb will continue their second row partnership, with the latter named as captain.
In the backs, Marshall and Allen will form an all new centre pairing, with Stuart Olding moving from inside centre to the flyhalf berth. Heaney will start at scrumhalf in place of Blane McIlroy. Peter Nelson and Chris Cochrane are again named in the back three, with Ricky Andrew switching from outside centre to wing to cover Adam D’Arcy’s injury.
The bench also has a strong look about it with the experienced Nigel Brady covering hooker. Academy players Kyle McCall, James Simpson and Conor Joyce are the other forward replacements. McIlroy, flyhalf Niall O’Connor and Dungannon outside back Stuart McCloskey will also provide cover.
The winner of the game will take the clear lead in the pool with Ulster winning 49-17 against Bridgend in Belfast last week and Bristol winning away - the Ravens securing a bonus point to leave them clear leaders.
ULSTER RAVENS: Peter Nelson; Ricky Andrew, Michael Allen, Luke Marshall, Chris Cochrane; Stuart Olding, Michael Heaney; Richard Lutton, Niall Annett, Adam Macklin, Alan O’Connor, Neil McComb (capt), Robbie Diack, Ali Birch, Roger Wilson;
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Kyle McCall, James Simpson, Conor Joyce, Blane McIlroy, Niall O’Connor, Stuart McCloskey.