Will Addison is set to play his first game in almost 15 months if he comes off the bench in Ulster’s Rainbow Cup match against Connacht at the Kingspan stadium on Friday night (8.15, live in Eir Sport 2, Premier Sports).
The Irish international has endured a hugely frustrating spell on the sidelines because of back and calf injuries but the return of such a talented player will be a huge fillip for Dan McFarland’s team.
There was further good news for the home side as Iain Henderson has recovered from an injury sustained on Ireland duty to resume his place in the secondrow alongside Kieran Treadwell. Jacob Stockdale switches from wing to fullback, while there is a place in the back three for the talented former Ireland Under-20 international Ethan McIlroy.
Stewart Moore joins James Hume for a centre partnership that is long on ability. Matty Rea comes in at blindside flanker, with Sean Reidy at openside, and Nick Timoney completing the backrow at number eight.
Connacht coach Andy Friend has made three changes to the side that lost to the Leicester Tigers in the European Challenge Cup, two behind the scrum with Ben O’Donnell on the right wing and Caolin Blade taking the number nine jersey. Sean O’Brien is rewarded for his performances of late as he joins the in-form Tom Daly in midfield.
Up front Naas born Jordan Duggan is named at loosehead prop in a pack that boasts plenty of experience. Paul Boyle, another in excellent form this season, will captain the team.
Ulster: Jacob Stockdale, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O'Toole; Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (capt); Matty Rea, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney. Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O'Sullivan, Ross Kane, Alan O'Connor, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Michael Lowry, Will Addison.
Connacht: John Porch; Ben O'Donnell, Sean O'Brien, Tom Daly, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Jordan Duggan, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury; Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (capt). Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Niall Murray, Abraham Papali'i, Kieran Marmion, Conor Fitzgerald, Peter Sullivan.
Referee: Andrew Brace