Ulster make five changes for semi-final meeting with Leicester

O’Sullivan and Moore return to the team as province look to reach Challenge Cup final

Challenge Cup semi-final: Leicester Tigers v Ulster

Kick-off: 8pm. Venue: Welford Road. On TV: Live on BT Sport.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has made five changes to the team that lost to Connacht in the Rainbow Cup for tomorrow’s European Challenge Cup semi-final against the Leicester Tigers at Welford Road (8.0, live on BT Sport).

Props Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore return to the frontrow, Alan O’Connor is named alongside captain, Iain Henderson in the secondrow, while Jordi Murphy will wear the number seven jersey. Matty Rea retains his place following a fine performance last weekend.


There is just one change to the backline with Stuart McCloskey resuming his centre partnership with James Hume. Michael Lowry and Will Addison, who returned to competitive action against Connacht following 15 months on the sidelines through injury, are part of a strong bench that includes former All Blacks scrumhalf Alby Mathewson.

There is no place in the Leicester Tigers matchday squad for a couple of Irish underage internationals Johnny McPhillips and Dan Kelly who have featured regularly this season.

McPhillips played in the Irish under-20s side that reached the World Junior Championship final against England in 2016 and Kelly, currently studying at Loughborough University, was part of the unbeaten Irish 20s in the 2020 Six Nations and should be a member of the Irish squad for this season’s tournament which takes place in June.

Tigers coach Steve Borthwick has chosen a strong team, reflected in the fact that England scrumhalf Ben Youngs and Argentine secondrow Thomas Lavanini are on the bench. Nemani Nadolo scored two tries against the Northampton Saints last weekend and it’ll be interesting to see how Robert Baloucoune copes with the sheer physical challenge that the Fijians imposes.

The Lions squad will be announced next week so for Stockdale and Henderson this represents an opportunity on a personal level to offer Warren Gatland a reminder of their talent.

Borthwick said: “Ulster are a very good team, who finished their Pro14 season in second place on their conference table and come to Welford Road on the back of two impressive away wins in Europe against English sides.

“They began the season in the Champions Cup and have made no secret of wanting to achieve success in this competition. They have an experienced squad, including many current internationals, and have a top-quality coaching team, who have done a very good job with Ulster Rugby in the past few seasons together.”

Leicester: Freddie Steward; Guy Porter, Matías Moroni, Matt Scott, Nemani Nadolo; George Ford, Richard Wigglesworth; Ellis Genge, Tom Youngs (C), Dan Cole; Harry Wells, Calum Green, George Martin, Hanro Liebenberg, Jasper Wiese. Replacements: Charlie Clare, Luan de Bruin, Joe Heyes, Tomás Lavanini, Cyle Brink, Ben Youngs, Zack Henry, Kini Murimurivalu.

Ulster: Jacob Stockdale; Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Eric O'Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore; Alan O'Connor, Iain Henderson (C); Matty Rea, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney. Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O'Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Michael Lowry, Will Addison.