Stuart McCloskey returns to much-changed Ulster backline ahead of Benetton clash

Richie Murphy makes seven changes to his backline ahead of home fixture with significant URC playoff ramifications

Stuart McCloskey returns to the Ulster starting line-up ahead of their URC clash with Benetton on Friday night.

McCloskey is one of a number of new faces to the province’s backline brought in by interim coach Richie Murphy. John Cooney and Billy Burns both come in at halfback in place of Nathan Doak and Jake Flannery, while James Hume’s injury means Will Addison partners McCloskey at centre.

Mike Lowry shifts to fullback from wing, while Rob Baloucoune comes onto the flank opposite Jacob Stockdale.

In the forwards, there is just one change to the pack which lined out against Cardiff, Reuben Crothers getting the nod in the backrow over Marcus Rea. David McCann and Dave Ewers line up alongside him, with Alan O’Connor once again captaining the side at lock next to Harry Sheridan. Scott Wilson, Tom Stewart and Eric O’Sullivan form the frontrow trio.


James French is a new face on the bench as he provides tighthead cover - Tom O’Toole went off last week not long after entering the fray as a replacement. John Andrew and Andrew Warwick are again on the bench, as are Greg Jones and Cormac Izuchukwu. David Shanahan, Luke Marshall and Ethan McIlroy provide the backline cover.

ULSTER: Mike Lowry; Rob Baloucoune, Will Addison, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Tom Stewart, Scott Wilson; Harry Sheridan, Alan O’Connor (capt); Dave Ewers, Reuben Crothers, David McCann.

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, James French, Cormac Izuchukwu, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Luke Marshall, Ethan McIlroy.

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Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist