Robert Baloucoune to make European debut against Racing 92
Just two players are retained from the team that lost to Leinster last weekend
Robert Baloucoune starts for Ulster against Racing 92 this weekend. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
The former Ireland Sevens flyer returns to the squad after serving a two-match suspension, while as expected Iain Henderson misses out with a long-term thumb injury.
Baloucoune is joined in the back three by Louis Ludik and Jacob Stockdale, who will earn his 50th Ulster cap. Stockdale is competition’s joint-top try-scorer (four) and is the only player to have scored in every round so far.
Stuart McCloskey and Will Addison are re-united in midfield, with John Cooney and Billy Burns named at scrumhalf and outhalf respectively. Burns currently leads the way for assists in the Champions Cup (four).
Rory Best returns to captain the side from hooker and will pack down beside Marty Moore and academy prop Eric O’Sullivan.
Alan O’Connor, one of just two players retained from the team that lost to Leinster last weekend, partners Kieran Treadwell in the second row.
Sean Reidy, the other player who was involved at the RDS, will line out alongside Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee in the backrow.
Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Ross Kane, Ian Nagle and Nick Timoney are the forward replacements, while Dave Shanahan, Michael Lowry and Darren Cave are the backline reinforcements.
Racing 92 have 19 points while Ulster are second in Pool Four on 14. If the Irish province could salvage at least a bonus point against the French club this weekend before beating Leicester at Welford Road in their final fixture, then they should be well set to qualify as a runner-up.
Ulster: L Ludik; R Baloucoune, W Addison, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Best (Capt), M Moore; A O’Connor, K Treadwell; S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee.
Replacements: R Herring, A Warwick, R Kane, I Nagle, N Timoney, D Shanahan, M Lowry, D Cave.
Racing: Brice Dulin; Simon Zebo, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Juan Imhoff; Finn Russell, Maxime Machenaud; Guram Gogichashvili, Dimitri Szarzewski (Capt), Ben Tameifuna; Bernard Le Roux, Leone Nakarawa; Wenceslas Lauret, Baptiste Chouzenoux, Antonie Claassen.
Replacements: Teddy Baubigny, Vasil Kakovin, Georges Henri Colombe, Boris Palu, Fabien Sanconnie, Teddy Iribaren, Olivier Klemenczak, Ben Volavola.