Jacob Stockdale to be unleashed as Ulster target win over Ospreys
Stockdale hoping to hit the ground running in order to secure Six Nations place
Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale will return Pro14 action against Ospreys. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ulster v Ospreys
Kingspan stadium, 8pm eir sport 2
Time heals all wounds. As Munster finally wrap Joey Carbery in red, rather than opposed to cotton wool, Ulster coach Dan McFarland must be delighted to unleash Jacob Stockdale upon the Pro14 once again.
The sight of an unbridled Robert Baloucoune would also be welcome by anyone who likes sport. The winger was sprinting towards the international stage until a terrible hamstring injury. Following a painstaking rehabilitation, he sits in reserve.
Stockdale suffered a slightly smaller tear of the same muscle but it threatens to ruin his fourth Six Nations campaign. Unless he hits the ground running here. Michael Lowry is another man making real strides at this level, but it is the bench, rather than the starting XV led by Jordi Murphy, that offers the most interesting prospect.
With former Ulster academy lock Jack Regan making his Super Rugby debut for the Otago Highlanders this weekend, the next long-fellow off the rank is Cormac Izuchukwu. The London born, Ireland Sevens international still has to muscle past Alan O’Connor and Kieran Treadwell.
Incidentally, Treadwell wins his 100th cap for Ulster, but that is assisted by the 25-year-old not being recalled to the top tier since making his debut in 2017. With club captain Iain Henderson busy keeping Ryan Baird at arm’s length in Ireland camp, opportunity knocks for Izuchukwu.
If that does not pique your curiosity, tune in to watch James Hume and John Cooney. Both are in exceptional form.
Ulster: Michael Lowry; Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Marty Moore; Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell; Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy (capt), Nick Timoney. Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Cormac Izuchukwu, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Matt Faddes, Robert Baloucoune.
Ospreys: Dan Evans; Keelan Giles, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Keiran Williams, Luke Morgan; Stephen Myler, Rhys Webb (capt); Gareth Thomas, Sam Parry, Tom Botha; Lloyd Ashley, Rhys Davies; Will Griffiths, Olly Cracknell, Morgan Morris. Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Nicky Smith, Ma’afu Fia, Gareth Evans, Sam Cross, Shaun Venter, Joe Hawkins, Luke Price.
Referee: S Gallagher (IRFU).
Verdict: Ulster win.