Ulster and Connacht welcome back Ireland heavyweights
Rory Best, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw all to start in Pro 12 clash
Robbie Henshaw starts at fullback for Connacht against Ulster on Friday night. Photograph: Inpho
Les Kiss’s side are currently fifth in the table while Connacht currently have a four point cushion at the top thanks to last weekend’s win over second place Leinster.
Payne’s opposite number in Belfast will be Ireland midfield partner Robbie Henshaw who returns to Pat Lam’s starting line-up at 15.
Iain Henderson will make his first home appearance for Ulster since returning form the injury he sustained last December, and he is joined in the backrow by Chris Henry and Roger Wilson, who replaces the injured Nick Williams.
For Connacht Rodney Ah You, who is bound for Ulster in the summer, replaces the injured Nathan White in the frontrow while Ultan Dillane returns to the bench after making his international breakthrough during the Six Nations.
Connacht boss Lam is without the injured AJ MacGinty. Sale Sharks announced on Thursday the back would be joining the North West club next season.
Ulster: J Payne, A Trimble, L Marshall, S McCloskey, C Gilroy, P Jackson, R Pienaar, C Black, R Best (C), R Lutton, P Browne, F van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Henry, R Wilson. Replacements: R Herring, K McCall, B Ross, R Diack, S Reidy, P Marshall, S Olding, D Cave.
Connacht: Robbie Henshaw, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Shane O’Leary, John Cooney, Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Andrew Browne, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon, James Connolly, Eoin McKeon. Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney. Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Sean O’Brien, Caolin Blade, Cormac Brennan, Danie Poolman