Preview: Ulster v Clermont

Date published: December 9 2016

Rory Best and Paddy Jackson are included in Ulster’s starting XV for Saturday’s Champions Cup fixture against Clermont Auvergne.

Best and Jackson return to provincial action after contributing so much to Ireland’s successful November series.

The international pair are two of four changes to the team that claimed a bonus point 23-35 win over Cardiff Blues last weekend, with Robbie Diack and Louis Ludik also earning starting berths.

Best will captain the side from hooker and he will be joined in the front row by props Kyle McCall and Wiehahn Herbst. Diack and Pete Browne will form a mobile second row unit, with Iain Henderson, Chris Henry and Sean Reidy making up an all-international loose forward trio.

Jackson will partner the influential Ruan Pienaar at half back, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall will continue in midfield. Ludik, who made a try-scoring return from injury in Cardiff, is named in a back three that also includes Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau.

Rob Herring, Andy Warwick and Rodney Ah You will provide Kiss with strong front row options off the bench. Exciting young lock Kieran Treadwell and utility forward Clive Ross are also named among the replacements. Paul Marshall, Darren Cave and Ireland U20 star Jacob Stockdale complete the match day squad.

Meanwhile, Clermont make a number of changes to the side who lost away to Pau in the Top 14 last weekend.

David Strettle is the only survivor in the backline outside of the half-backs, as Scott Spedding, Rémi Lamerat, Wesley Fofana and Nick Abendanon all return.

Peceli Yato starts at number eight in place of Fritz Lee, with Alexandre Lapandry also getting the nod in the back row alongside captain Damien Chouly.

Sébastien Vahaamahina replaces Sitaleki Timani at lock, with the experienced Davit Zirakashvili and Benjamin Kayser coming into the front row.

Form: Ulster have won one out of two matches so far in the tournament and are currently third on the Pool Five table behind Bordeaux-Bègles and Clermont, who top the pool with two bonus-point victories.  Ulster lost 28-13 to UBB at Stade Chaban-Delmas in their opener before claiming a narrow 19-18 win over Exeter Chiefs at the Kingspan Stadium in Round Two. Clermont’s campaign started on a high when they beat Exeter 35-8 at Sandy Park and in their next match, they registered a 49-33 victory over UBB at Stade Marcel-Michelin.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Robbie Diack, 4 Peter Browne, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Kyle McCall
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Darren Cave, 23 Jacob Stockdale

Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Peceli Yato, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Damien Chouly (c), 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Raphaël Chaume
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Camille Gerondeau, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Benson Stanley, 23 Alivereti Raka

Date: Saturday, December 10
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)