Ulster make changes for trip to Italy
Rugby:Ulster have been boosted by the inclusion of Ireland props Tom Court and Declan Fitzpatrick in their matchday squad for the trip to play Zebre on Sunday after they were released from international duty.
The pair will take their places on the bench, with the starting XV seeing five changes for the Pro 12 game at the Stadio XXV Aprile.
Half-backs Michael Heaney and Niall O’Connor have been included in the starting line-up in place of Paul Marshall and Ruan Pienaar, both of whom are on international duty this weekend.
Jared Payne will continue at outside centre alongside Paddy Wallace, after scoring a brace of tries in a very impressive performance against Edinburgh earlier this month.
Michael Allen returns to the team for the first time since picking up an ankle injury against Cardiff in September. His inclusion on the right wing results in Chris Cochrane switching to the left flank in place of Ireland Wolfhounds player Craig Gilroy. Academy fullback Ricky Andrew will earn his second start.
The frontrow of Callum Black, John Afoa and Nigel Brady remains, with the latter continuing as captain in the absence of Johann Muller.
Robbie Diack moves from the backrow to the secondrow after Lewis Stevenson’s injury. He will be partnered at lock by Neil McComb. The backrow sees Nick Williams elevated to the starting team at blindside flanker, while Mike McComish and Roger Wilson retain their places at openside and number 8 respectively.
Court and Fitzpatrick are joined on the bench by hooker Rob Herring, Academy secondrow James Simpson and Ali Birch, who is yet to play this season.
ULSTER:R Andrew; M Allen, J Payne, P Wallace, C Cochrane; N O’Connor, M Heaney; C Black, N Brady (capt), J Afoa, R Diack, N McComb, N Williams, M McComish, R Wilson.
Replacements:R Herring, T Court, D Fitzpatrick, J Simpson, A Birch, B McIlroy, S Olding, P Nelson.