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Preview: Ulster v Connacht

10th April 2014 11:46

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tommy bowe ulster

At 13: Tommy Bowe

Tommy Bowe will start at outside centre for Ulster as the Province return to RaboDirect Pro12 action, against Connacht at Ravenhill.

The British and Irish Lion is joined in midfield by Ireland international Luke Marshall, who will make his 50th appearance for Ulster in the game.

Ricky Andrew replaces the suspended Jared Payne at full-back with Craig Gilroy starting on the left wing.

Andrew Trimble who suffered concussion against Saracens, has followed the necessary return to play protocols, and starts the game on the right wing.

Paul Marshall is selected at scrum-half alongside Paddy Jackson. Up front, Andrew Warwick makes his first start for Ulster with Rob Herring named at hooker and Ricky Lutton selected at tighthead.

Captain, Johann Muller, is joined by Iain Henderson in the second row. Robbie Diack starts at blindside with Nick Williams selected at number eight and Chris Henry continuing at openside.

There are five forwards on the bench with Niall Annett, Tom Court, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson joined by backs Michael Heaney, James McKinney and Stuart McCloskey.

Darren Cave and Stephen Ferris have been rested for the game.

Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Pat Lam has named an unchanged side for the fourth game in a row..

23-year-old Mick Kearney will earn his 50th Connacht cap starting in the second row with Aly Muldowney.

The only change on the bench comes in the forwards with Academy prop Finlay Bealham replacing an injured Nathan White. Connacht's longest serving player Michael Swift is in line to earn his 180th league appearance.

"When you consider the front liners we've been missing these last few months - Wilkinson, Henry, White, Clarke, Faloon and Heenan - the guys who've played in the last five games have put in an outstanding effort and the performances have shown that. And so we go up to Belfast with the same group of guys," said Lam.

Form: Ulster's six game winning run in the RaboDirect PRO12 ended when they were defeated 23-28 in Cardiff in Round 18. The Ulstermen have lost just once at Ravenhill in the competition in their last 14 matches: 12-13 to Glasgow Warriors on 13th September. Ulster have won their last four home games against fellow Irish provinces. Connacht's four game winning run in the PRO12 ended in Llanelli on 30th March. Connacht have lost their last nine contests with fellow Irish provinces, and have not beaten a province on their own soil since a trip to Donnybrook in September 2002. Connacht's only victory over Ulster in their last 15 fixtures was 26-21 in Galway in April 2012, whilst they have not won at Ravenhill since November 1960.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (c), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Louis Stevenson, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Stuart McCloskey.

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Eoghan Masterson, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Darragh Leader.

Date: Friday, April 11
Kick-off: 19:05 BST
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
Television match official: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Assessor: Jack Young (Ireland)

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