Seven changes in Ulster side against Toulon

Jared Payne on the attack for Ulster is tackled by Steffon Armitage and  Leigh Halfpenny during the last time they met Toulon in Belfast
Jared Payne on the attack for Ulster is tackled by Steffon Armitage and Leigh Halfpenny during the last time they met Toulon in Belfast

Rory Best, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy have been rested as Ulster headed to France on Friday ahead of Saturday’s European Champions Cup pool three game against Toulon.

The trio are sitting the Euro match out under the IRFU player welfare programme - but are expected to play in next Saturday’s final pool game against Leicester Tigers.

Ulster’s chances of qualification to the knockout stages are slim, albeit a shock win at Stade Felix Mayol against the double champions would put them back in the mix mathematically.

Certainly if they were still on course to reach the last eight for a fifth consecutive season, the frontliners would have been included.

The welfare of players plus injuries in the Ulster camp has also meant Neil Doak has had to select two scrumhalves on the bench.

Darren Cave will make his 150th game for Ulster in the match, named at outside centre in a side that shows seven changes and two positional switches from the PRO12 winning team against Treviso last week.

Ireland international, Jared Payne, starts at fullback for the first time this season while Louis Ludik moves to the right wing in place of Tommy Bowe.

Cave is partnered in midfield by fellow international Stuart Olding.

Michael Allen comes into the side on the left wing with Paddy Jackson and Springbok scrum-half, Ruan Pienaar, named in the halfbacks.

There is a completely new front row with Andrew Warwick picked at loosehead, Rob Herring selected at hooker and Bronson Ross, who starts his first game for Ulster, named at tighthead in place of the injured Wiehahn Herbst.

Alan O’Connor continues in the second row where he is joined by Franco van der Merwe who returns to the side having been ill last week.

In the back row, Clive Ross moves to openside, Mike McComish is selected at blindside and captain Roger Wilson starts the game at Number 8.

Forwards John Andrew, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson and Robbie Diack join backs Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys and Michael Heaney on the replacements bench.

RC Toulon: Leigh Halfpenny; Drew Mitchell, Mathieu Bastareaud, Maxime Mermoz, Bryan Habana; Nicolas Sanchez, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Xavier Chiocci, Guilhem Guirado, Martin Castrogiovanni, Jocelino Suta, Ali Williams, Juan Smith, Steffon Armitage, Chris Masoe (c)

Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Florian Fresia, Carl Hayman, Mamuka Gorgodze, Rudi Wulf, David Smith, Eric Escande, Romain Taofifenua

Ulster Rugby: Jared Payne; Louis Ludik, Darren Cave, Stuart Olding, Michael Allen; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Andy Warwick, Rob Herring, Bronson Ross, Alan O’Connor, Franco Van Der Merwe, Clive Ross, Mike McComish, Roger Wilson (c)

Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Michael Heaney