Marcell Coetzee set for Ulster return in opener against Scarlets

Marcell Coetzee during Captain's Run on Friday
Marcell Coetzee during Captain's Run on Friday

South African flanker Marcell Coetzee will make his long-awaited return for Ulster in their Guinness PRO14 opener against Scarlets on Saturday evening (5:15pm)..

New Australian signing Henry Speight will make his debut on the wing and is joined in the backline by fellow new arrivals Will Addison and Billy Burns.

Ulster’s Coetzee hasn’t played since last October and has only played five games for them since joining in 2016.

With Rory Best still injured, second row Alan O’Connor will captain Ulster for what will be new coach Dan McFarland’s first game in charge after his arrival in Belfast from his role as Scotland assistant coach.

Ireland internationals John Cooney and Iain Henderson start after missing both pre-season fixtures, but Marty Moore (calf) and Kyle McCall (elbow) picked up injuries in training and are unavailable.

Scarlets start with Scotland’s Sam Hidalgo-Clyne ahead of Wales’ Gareth Davies at scrum-half.

New recruits Clayton Blommetjies and Blade Thomson make their first starts.

British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies plays his first competitive game since November 2017, after returning from injury in the pre-season defeat against Bath last weekend.

But last season’s beaten finalists have 14 players injured, including Wales pair Leigh Halfpenny and Samson Lee.

Ulster: Addison; Gilroy, Cave, McCloskey, Speight; Burns, Cooney; Warwick, Andrew, O’Toole, O’Connor (captain), Henderson, Coetzee, Reidy, Timoney.

Replacements: A McBurney, E O’Sullivan, R Kane, K Treadwell, C Henry, D Shanahan, A Curtis, A Kernohan.

Scarlets: Blommetjies; Prydie, Davies, Fonotia, S Evans; Patchell, Hidalgo-Clyne; Evans, Owens (capt), Kruger, Bulbring, Cummins, Thomson, Davies, Macleod.

Replacements: Elias, Price, Gardiner, Kennedy, Davis, Davies, Jones, Nicholas.