Rory Best to make his first start of the season against Connacht

Connacht captain Jarrad Butler returns for Friday night interpro clash in Belfast

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best starts this Friday night against Connacht. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best starts this Friday night against Connacht. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

 

Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale will make their first appearances of the season in Friday’s Pro14 tie against Connacht at Kingspan Stadium.

The pair have recovered from their respective injuries and take their places in the starting XV. Best will captain the side on his return and will join Tom O’Toole and Andy Warwick in the frontrow. Alan O’Connor and Iain Henderson will continue their second row partnership.

Marcell Coetzee has returned from a shoulder injury and will pack down at number eight, alongside Matthew Rea and Nick Timoney in the backrow.

John Cooney and Billy Burns are retained in the halfback positions, while Stuart McCloskey and Angus Curtis are paired together in midfield for the first time.

Jacob Stockdale, Angus Kernohan and Peter Nelson will combine in the back three.

Connacht captain Jarrad Butler has returned from injury to take his place in the Connacht starting team. Butler is one of four changes, with academy player Paul Boyle also coming into the backrow.

There is one change in the front row as Tom McCartney starts at hooker in place of the injured Dave Heffernan, last weekend’s captain against Leinster.

Matt Healy’s return from injury on the wing sees him form a back three that includes Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at fullback.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend says that both sides have a challenge ahead of them after a six-day turnaround from respective interpros last weekend; “Both sides had tough games last weekend, us against Leinster and Ulster against Munster. Both sides will be trying to recover from the six day turnaround and that is the challenge in these big games.

“This week involved reviewing the game last week and fine tuning things from last weekend so we are ready to go for Friday. It is great to have our captain Jarrad back and one or two other guys who were returning from small knocks. We are expecting a massive challenge from a real quality Ulster side.”

Ulster: Peter Nelson; Angus Kernohan, Angus Curtis, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, Rory Best (capt), Tom O’Toole; Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson; Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Marcell Coetzee;

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Dave Shanahan, Johnny McPhillips, James Hume.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux; Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler (capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Kyle Godwin, Cian Kelleher

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