Preview: Ulster v Saracens

Date published: November 19 2015

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Iain Henderson has returned from injury and will make his 50th Ulster appearance in Friday's Champions Cup clash against Saracens.

The powerful forward has been out of action since picking up a hand injury in Ireland's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Argentina, but he has recovered in time for the start of Ulster's European campaign.

Rory Best will captain the side and is joined in the front row by Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst. Dan Tuohy and Franco van der Merwe continue in the second row, while Chris Henry and Nick Williams will make up the back row alongside blindside flanker Henderson.

Half-backs Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson will start together for the first time this season, with Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave lining out in midfield. The experienced trio of Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy and Louis Ludik are named in the back three.

Meanwhile, Brad Barritt will captain Saracens in his 150th appearance for the club.

The England international centre, who has been at the club since 2008, will lead out Saracens in Belfast as they look to maintain their perfect start to the 2015/16 season.

Mark McCall has only made two changes to the side that ran-in three tries against the four-time winners Toulouse at Allianz Park.

At hooker, Jamie George reverts to the bench to rotate with South African World Cup hooker Schalk Brits in the front row, whilst Jacques Burger returns to the side after a one-week suspension in the place of Will Fraser.

Hooker Brits takes his place in the Saracens front row alongside Mako Vunipola and Rhys Gill, whilst George Kruis and Maro Itoje continue at lock after an impressive start to the season.

In the back row, Michael Rhodes continues at blindside flanker and is joined by Jacques Burger and Billy Vunipola.
England duo Richard Wigglesworth and Owen Farrell continue at half back, whilst skipper Brad Barritt will once again partner Duncan Taylor at centre.

Alex Goode starts at full-back, and is joined by Chris Ashton and Chris Wyles in the Saracens back three.

Saracens director or rugby, Mark McCall, said: “Ulster are a team that we know very well. They are one of the best in Europe and we’ve had some classic battles with them in recent years.

“I know how tough a place the Kingspan Stadium can be when it’s rocking on a European night, so to be facing them is a real challenge for us but one that we’re all very excited by.”

Form: Last weekend, Ulster's opener against Oyonnax was postponed due to the terror attacks in Paris. Ulster head into their clash against Sarries having won six of their last nine matches against French opposition. During the 2014/15 Champions Cup, Ulster finished with just two wins and a draw from their six pool matches. That is their worst performance in Europe's premier cup competition since the 2008/09 season. Saracens kicked off their 2015/16 Champions Cup campaign with a 32-7 victory over Toulouse at Allianz Park last weekend.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Kyle McCall, 17 Rob Herring, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Peter Nelson

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Marcelo Bosch

Date: Friday, November 20
Venue: Ravenhill
Kick-off: 21:45 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Cyril Lafon (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

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