GUINNESS PRO12: Les Kiss rotates Ulster team

Kieran Treadwell will start at lock for Ulster against Connacht
Kieran Treadwell will start at lock for Ulster against Connacht

Ulster have freshened their starting team up ahead of Friday night’s Guinness PRO12 derby against Connacht at Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm).

With only a five-day turnaround from the European Champions Cup game against Clermont, director of rugby Les Kiss has made six changes.

Ulster are also managing some fresh injuries and sickness in the camp this week.

Rory Best will retain the captaincy after co-captain Andrew Trimble was ruled out for at least another week.

Ulster Rugby said: “Andrew Trimble was unable to train fully this week and therefore was not available for selection.”

Five of the changes come in the forwards after a physical fortnight against Clermont in the back-to-back European games.

Andrew Warwick and Rodney Ah You come in to start in the front row.

Kieran Treadwell, who impressed off the bench in the back-to-back games against the French giants, has earned a start in the second row.

Iain Henderson has been moved from blindside flanker to partner the youngster at lock.

Clive Ross and Roger Wilson have been selected in the back row alongside Chris Henry, who is retained at openside.

There is just one change in the backline with Jacob Stockdale, who made his European debut against Clermont at the weekend, is installed on the left wing.

Louis Ludik moves to the right wing berth and Charles Piutau continues at fullback.

Stuart McCloskey, who will win his 50th Ulster cap tonight, will again be joined in midfield by fellow international Luke Marshall.

Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson start together in the half-back positions for the third consecutive match.

Kiss has named an experienced replacements bench, which has accumulated 892 Ulster appearances and includes Darren Cave and Tommy Bowe.

Ulster are currently in fifth place in the PRO12 standings and are seeking a win to keep their top four finish chances on track.

It is also Ulster’s last home game until the end of January and Kiss said he wanted to finish the year well at home.

“It is a sell-out against Connacht and it should not take much to motivate the boys,” he said.

“They are a stoic team to play against and we would hope to go into Christmas happy.”

Ulster captain, Rory Best said he believed it was probably the best Connacht team coming to Belfast and his side had to be prepared to meet the challenge.

“This is the first Connacht team to come here as Champions, so from that regard it has to be the best.

“Then you see the way they are playing. Thirteen points from four games in the restructured European Cup is no mean feat.

“Coupled with that, the character they have, against a pretty good Wasps side to come back when it looked like they were dead and buried to win the game last week. This is a very good outfit and the way they played last year thoughout the season and then in the final especially.

Ulster’s form has improved in recent weeks with two wins a loss and Best knows they have to continue to improve.

“You need to win your home games. We have obviously let one slip this season, we cannot afford to let another one slip.

“You still have to pick up away wins and the more you stay out of the top four the more you have to win when not expected to.”