Ulster v Zebre: Ulster go in search of bonus point

Peter Nelson and Dave Shanahan will start together as halfbacks for first time

Ulster v Zebre, Kingspan stadium (Saturday, 7.35, live on Premier Sports)

This represents a huge match for Ulster in the context of the race for playoff places in Conference B of the Guinness Pro 14. Currently lying in fourth place but only two points off second, Dan McFarland’s team will be chasing a bonus point win against Michael Bradley’s Zebre, who have several permit players in their matchday 23 because of international commitments.

Darren Cave moves to second in the all-time list making his 222nd appearance, now just seven behind Andrew Trimble. He partners last week's man-of-the-match and centurion Stuart McCloskey, Robert Baloucoune comes in on the right wing, while Rob Lyttle gets a start on the left with the consistently excellent Louis Ludik switching to fullback.

There is a new halfback combination in Peter Nelson and Dave Shanahan and they will need to manage the game shrewdly if Ulster are to prosper. Kieran Treadwell comes into the secondrow in place in Iain Henderson while Sean Reidy starts at openside flanker. Zebre are without seven internationals.


Ulster demonstrated real grit in eking out a fine victory in Swansea last time out and will be need to be similarly hardnosed and focused to achieve the desired result.

ULSTER: L Ludik; R Baloucoune, D Cave, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; P Nelson, D Shanahan; E O'Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore; A O'Connor (capt), K Treadwell; C Ross, S Reidy, N Timoney.

Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, R Kane, I Nagle, G Jones, J Stewart, J McPhillips, J Hume.

ZEBRA: F Brummer; P Balekana, G Bisegni, N De Battista, J Elliott; C Canna, J Renton; D Rimpelli, O Fabiani, E Bello; L Krumov, G Biagi (capt); A Tauyavuca, J Brown, J Bianchi.

Replacements: L Luus, D Fischetti, R Tenga, L Masselli, A Mordacci, R Raffaele, M Azzolini, G Venditti.

Referee: M Adamson (Scotland).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer