Ulster recall test quartet
Rugby:Mark Anscombe has made four changes to the starting team for the RaboDirect Pro12 derby against Connacht at Ravenhill tomorrow (7.05). Declan Fitzpatrick, who was due to start, picked up a medial ligament injury in training this morning, and is replaced by John Afoa.
It promises to be an emotional occasion as it will mark Ulster’s first home game since the tragic passing of Nevin Spence. The fixture will also see fellow international Tommy Bowe line out for for Ulster at home for the first time in four years, following his spell with Ospreys.
Ireland hooker Rory Best has returned to fitness and will play for his province for the first time since the Heineken Cup final in May. Johann Muller (captain), Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace are all called into the starting team.
Fitzpatrick and Best are joined in the front row by Tom Court, with Muller back to partner Dan Tuohy in the second row. Ferris will play alongside Chris Henry and Nick Williams in an impressive looking back row.
Centre Michael Allen, has been ruled out after suffering an ankle injury in the process of scoring against Cardiff at the weekend. Darren Cave will move to outside centre in his place, allowing Paddy Wallace to slot in alongside him in midfield. Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson will continue their half back partnership, while the back three of Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne is also unchanged.
Eric Elwood has made four changes to his starting team following victory over Leinster last week. Up front, Denis Buckley makes way for Brett Wilkinson as loosehead prop while Ronan Loughney, who last week was called up to the Irish training squad, returns to the tighthead prop position.
Elsewhere in the pack, Dave Gannon replaces Eoin McKeon as blindside flanker. Gannon is joined in the backrow by former Ulster flanker Willie Faloon, who tomorrow will captain Connacht.
Ulster:J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, P Marshall; T Court, R Best, D Fitzpatrick; J Muller (capt), D Tuohy; S Ferris, C Henry, N Williams. Replacements: R Herring, C Black, J Afoa, L Stevenson, M McComish, M Heaney, L Marshall, C Gilroy.
Connacht:R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; D Gannon, W Faloon (capt), G Naoupu. Relacements: J Harris-Wright, D Buckley, N White, J Muldoon, J O’Connor, D Moore, M Nikora, M Fifita.