Director of Rugby Les Kiss has made eight changes to the Ulster team for Sunday’s European Rugby Champions Cup pool one game with Oyonnax at Stade Charles-Mathon (Kick off 1pm GMT).
In line with the player management programme which he and Neil Doak outlined earlier this week, Kiss will rest some established players who’ve completed a long sequence of games over December and the New Year, but he’s delighted to welcome Craig Gilroy back into the starting line up. The Ireland winger will return to the team at fullback, with Louis Ludik providing cover from a strong bench.
Sammy Arnold will start his first European game on the right wing, with Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall continuing their midfield partnership. Rory Scholes occupies the left wing berth.
Ian Humphreys and Paul Marshall are selected at half-back with Paddy Jackson and Ruan Pienaar named on an experienced replacements’ panel.
Prop Wiehahn Herbst hasn’t recovered from a knock he received last weekend; Ricky Lutton takes his place in the front row alongside Captain Rory Best and Kyle McCall.
Callum Black, Rob Herring and Bronson Ross will provide front row cover from the bench.
Lewis Stevenson replaces Alan O’Connor, who also hasn’t recovered from a knock he picked up against Munster, in the second row alongside Franco van der Merwe.
There is one change in the back row, after a physically demanding stretch of games, Nick Williams is replaced at number 8 by Roger Wilson. Williams will be joined by Sean Reidy on the bench. Robbie Diack and Chris Henry remain on the flanks.
Meanwhile, former Leinster centre Eamonn Sheridan comes back into Oyonnax’s midfield for the visit of Ulster.
OYONNAX: 15. Quentin Etienne; 14. Dug Codjo, 13. Alaska Taufa, 12. Eamonn Sheridan, 11. Uwa Tawalo; 10. Nicky Robinson, 9. Julien Blanc; 1. Laurent Delboulbès, 2. Jeremie Maurouard, 3. Marc Clerc, 4. George Robson, 5. Fabrice Metz, 6. Pierrick Gunther, 7. Maurie Fa’asavalu, 8. Pedrie Wannenburg
16. Thomas Bordes, 17. Stan Wright, 18. Horace Pungea , 19. Leon Power, 20. Viliami Maafu, 21. Arthur Aziza, 22. Rory Clegg, 23. Daniel Ikpefan
Ulster Rugby: 15. Craig Gilroy; 14. Sam Arnold, 13. Luke Marshall, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Rory Scholes; 10. Ian Humphreys, 9. Paul Marshall; 1. Kyle McCall, 2. Rory Best, 3. Ricky Lutton, 4. Lewis Stevenson, 5. Franco Van Der Merwe, 6. Robbie Diack, 7. Chris Henry, 8. Roger Wilson
16. Rob Herring, 17. Callum Black, 18. Bronson Ross, 19. Nick Williams, 20. Sean Reidy, 21. Ruan Pienaar, 22. Paddy Jackson, 23. Louis Ludik
The match will be televised live on Sky Sports 2 from 12:45pm, and full commentary and analysis on BBC Radio Ulster MW from 12:45pm.
Up next at Kingspan Stadium: Ulster v Oyonnax, Champions Cup Round 6, Saturday 23rd January 2016, kick off 1pm. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at www.ulsterrugby.com/buytickets.