Christian Lealiifano to make Ulster bow in Cheetahs opener

Province without Craig Gilroy until late November due to stress fracture in lower back

Christian Lealiifano is set to make his competitive Ulster debut on Friday night. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

Christian Lealiifano is set to make his competitive Ulster debut on Friday night. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

 

Ulster v Cheetahs, Ravenhill, Friday September 1st (7.35ko)

Christian Lealiifano will make his competitive Ulster debut on Friday night as the province begin their Pro 14 campaign against South African side the Cheetahs.

Outhalf Lealiifano - who has been capped 19 times for the Wallabies since his debut in 2013 - recently joined Ulster on a five-month deal.

However, Les Kiss is without the services of Ireland back Craig Gilroy, who will be out until late November after suffering a stress fracture in his lower back.

Lealiifano is joined in the halfbacks by fellow new signing John Cooney, who takes the number nine jersey, with Stuart McCloskey and Tommy Bowe starting in midfield.

Charles Piutau starts in the back three alongside Louis Ludik and Andrew Trimble, while Jean Deysel - another new addition - also makes his competitive debut in the backrow, alongside Chris Henry and compatriot Marcell Coetzee.

Friday night’s fixture at Ravenhill sees Ulster take on South African opposition as the rebranded Pro 14 competition gets underway.

Ulster: Charles Piutau, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik, Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney; Kyle McCall, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Robbie Diack, Alan O’Connor, Jean Deysel, Chris Henry (captain), Marcell Coetzee. Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Peter Nelson, Darren Cave.

Cheetahs: Sergeal Petersen, Rosko Specman, William Small-Smith, Ali Mgijima, Makazole Mapimpi, Clayton Blommetjies, Shaun Venter, Charles Marais, Jacques du Toit, Johan Coetzee, Justin Basson, Reniel Hugo, Paul Schoeman, Henco Venter, Niell Jordaan (Captain). Replacements: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Ox Nche,Tom Botha, Rynier Bernardo, Gerhard Olivier, Tian Meyer, Cecil Afrika, Ryno Benjamin

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