The rising starts within Ulster Rugby have been handed a glorious opportunity to display their skills on the big stage when the Province face Uruguay at Kingspan Stadium tonight (7.30pm).
Ulster Academy manager, Kieran Campbell, who is standing in as head coach tonight, has, along with Academy coach, Willie Anderson, selected a young side to face the touring South Americans.
It was always anticipated Ulster would turn to the Academy and club ranks for the game given it is a ‘down’ period for the senior squad.
However, injury has ruled out recent debutants Michael Lowry and Robert Baloucoune, while the much talked about Aaron Sexton is also missing.
Abbey Insurance Academy players Bruce Houston, Iwan Hughes and Stewart Moore are included in the backs.
Forwards Alex Thompson and Marcus Rea, who is also an Academy player, have yet to make their competitive debuts.
South African prop Schalk van der Merwe, starts in the front row and he will be under the spotlight having had little time with Ulster since his arrival two seasons ago.
Centre James Hume, who made his first Ulster start in last weekend’s Guinness PR014 away win over Benetton, is in a backline which also includes Angus Kernohan, Johnny McPhillips and Jonny Stewart, who also have had senior experience.
Hooker Adam McBurney will captain the side as he joins van der Merwe and Tom O’Toole in the front row.
Matthew Dalton joins former Thompson in the second row.
Thompson, is back for a second stint with Ulster. He was part of the Ireland Under-20 squad in 2015 alongside the likes of Jacob Stockdale, Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery, but we let go two seasons ago before impressing once again and getting a recall.
Ulster: Bruce Houston; Iwan Hughes, Stewart Moore, James Hume, Angus Kernohan; Johnny McPhillips, Jonny Stewart; Schalk van der Merwe, Adam McBurney (capt), Tom O’Toole; Matthew Dalton, Alex Thompson; Matthew Rea, Marcus Rea, Greg Jones.
Replacements: Zack McCall, Corrie Barrett, Peter Cooper, Joe Dunleavy, David McCann, Jonah Mau’u, Graham Curtis, Michael Stronge.