Preview: Ulster v Leicester

Date published: January 23 2015

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Ireland international Iain Henderson will start his first match of the season for Ulster against Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill.

The 22 year-old suffered a hip-injury in pre-season and comes back into the side at blindside flanker.

The return of Henderson is one of eight changes to the starting XV that lost to Toulon in Stade Mayol last weekend.

Ireland Internationals Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy and Rory Best all return to the team. The other changes see Ian Humphreys named at fly-half, Callum Black selected at loosehead and Wiehahn Herbst picked at tighthead.

Jared Payne continues at full-back with Bowe starting on the right wing and Gilroy on the left.

Darren Cave maintains his place in midfield alongside the returning Marshall who is picked at inside-centre.

Ruan Pienaar, who passed the 200-point mark for Ulster in Europe against Toulon, partners Humphreys in the half-backs.

Black, Best and Herbst form the new-look front row with Alan O’Connor and Franco van der Merwe continuing their partnership in the second-row.

Henderson is joined in the back row by double try-scorer in Stade Mayol, Mike McComish, who starts at openside and Roger Wilson who continues at number eight.

Meanwhile, Marcos Ayerza and Tom Youngs return to the Leicester Tigers front row.

Argentina prop Ayerza and England international hooker Youngs were both among the replacements for the Round 5 win over the Scarlets last weekend but they swap places for this match with Michele Rizzo and Leonardo Ghiraldini.

Graham Kitchener, who is included in the England squad ahead of the Six Nations, also returns to the starting line-up as a replacement for Brad Thorn who was an early withdrawal in the win over Scarlets with a calf injury.

The only other change to the matchday 23 from last Friday sees the return from injury of Niall Morris, who is included on the bench.

Form: Ulster were thrashed 60-22 in Toulon last week and scraped to a 24-20 away win over Treviso in the Pro12 a week earlier. Their last home game dates back to Boxing Day, when they edged Connacht 13-10. Leicester bounced back from a 32-12 loss away to Harlequins in the Premiership to claim a 40-23 win over Scarlets last week. Tigers won 25-18 at Welford Road in the last meeting between these sides at Ulster were 22-19 winners in their most recent clash at Ravenhill, in 2014.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Franco Van Der Merwe, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Neil McComb, 22 Paul Marshall, 23 Michael Allen

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Niall Morris

Date: Saturday, 24 January
Venue: Ravenhill
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauz

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