Peter O’Mahony and Billy Burns both miss out on Friday night’s crucial URC interpro
URC: Ulster vs Munster, Friday April 22nd, Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm kick-off, live on RTÉ)
Both Dan McFarland and Johann van Graan have made significant tweaks to their sides, with Ulster retaining more of their starting XV from last week’s contrasting Champions Cup ties for their crunch URC meeting at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday.
Michael Lowry has been moved from fullback to outhalf, with Stewart Moore coming in at full-back, in the absence of Billy Burns, who suffered concussion in last Saturday’s loss to Toulouse.
It is a measure of the game’s importance that the backline is otherwise unchanged, as is the Ulster tight five, with Matty Rea and Jordi Murphy coming into the backrow in place of the former’s brother Marcus and Duane Vermeulen, as Nick Timoney switches to number eight in the two other changes.
Gareth Milasinovich is named on the bench in place of Tom O’Toole pending his suspended disciplinary hearing for last week’s red card while Sam Carter comes in for Kieran Treadwell, who also suffered concussion against Toulouse and like Burns is unavailable given the six-day turnaround and the return to play protocols.
Sean Reidy provides backrow cover off the bench, while Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham are also restored to the match-day squad to offer the back line options.
Munster have made seven changes, three of them enforced, with Craig Casey preferred to start at scrumhalf and Conor Murray named on the bench.
Simon Zebo misses out due to personal reasons so the other change in the backline sees the return of Shane Daly, a try-scorer in the first leg against Exeter after Zebo was ruled out through illness.
The Munster statement added that due to a six-day turnaround following a bruising encounter on Saturday, Peter O’Mahony and Niall Scannell didn’t come through a full training week and were unavailable due to unspecified knocks.
There is a new front row of Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron and Stephen Archer, while Thomas Ahern comes into the second row and academy player Alex Kendellen starts at number ‘8’, with Jack O’Donoghue captaining the side again and reverting to blindside in the absence of O’Mahony.
Academy hooker Scott Buckley is among the replacements and in line to make his sixth appearance of the season, and Chris Cloete is also restored in a 6-2 split on the bench.
Ulster: Stewart Moore; Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy; Mike Lowry, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore; Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (capt); Matty Rea, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.
Munster: Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Thomas Ahern; Jack O’Donoghue (C), John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen.
Replacements: Scott Buckley, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Jason Jenkins, Fineen Wycherley, Conor Murray, Ben Healy, Chris Cloete.