Iain Henderson back for Ulster as Round Two kicks off

Date published: December 16 2021 - Planet Rugby

There is one game scheduled to take place on Friday in Round Two of the Champions Cup as Ulster host Northampton Saints. 

Montpellier v Leinster

Game is cancelled. Montpellier awarded 28-0 bonus-point win.

Ulster v Northampton Saints

Ulster captain Iain Henderson makes his return from injury to lead the team in their first home game of this year’s Champions Cup, against Northampton on Friday.

Henderson is one of three changes to the side that defeated Clermont at Stade Marcel-Michelin last Saturday, and he will start in the locks alongside Alan O’Connor.

In the front-row, Marty Moore returns to pack down at tighthead prop, with Rob Herring at hooker and Andrew Warwick in the loosehead position this weekend.

Last Saturday’s back-row of Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney and Duane Vermeulen has been retained.

In the back three, Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy retain their starting berths at full-back and left wing respectively, with Craig Gilroy coming in to start on the right wing.

Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will again form the midfield partnership, while the half-back pairing of Billy Burns and last week’s Heineken Star of the Match, John Cooney, is also retained.

The coaching team has again opted for a 6-2 split on the bench. John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Sam Carter and Greg Jones provide the forward cover, and Nathan Doak and Stewart Moore are the backline options.

Meanwhile, full-back Ahsee Tuala will make his first start of the season for Northampton Saints, as director of rugby Chris Boyd makes six changes to his starting line-up.

The men in Black, Green and Gold head to the Kingspan Stadium looking to topple the Irish side, who boast a ferocious recent record at the ground in the competition, winning 13 of their last 15 home games.

This will be the sixth clash between Ulster and Northampton in the Champions Cup; Ulster have won two with Saints winning three – but it’s the first meeting since the pool stage in 2012/13, when each club picked up an away victory.

Samoan international Tuala comes into Saints’ backline at full-back, with Ollie Sleightholme and Northampton’s top try-scorer Courtnall Skosan on the wings.

Fraser Dingwall and Matt Proctor continue their partnership in the centres for Northampton, while George Furbank shifts into the 10 shirt to partner Alex Mitchell in the half-back berths.

Ehren Painter stays on at tighthead prop but is joined by Alex Waller and Mike Haywood in a fresh front-row combination.

Northampton’s engine room is once again manned by locks David Ribbans and Api Ratuniyarawa, with Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood returning to the starting XV to join skipper Lewis Ludlam in the back-row.

Meanwhile with the likes of Emmanuel Iyogun, Juarno Augustus, James Grayson and Rory Hutchinson waiting in the wings, Saints’ bench will be looking to make an impact in Belfast.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Marcus Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (c), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andy Warwick
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sam Carter, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Greg Jones

Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 George Furbank, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Tom James, 22 James Grayson, 23 Rory Hutchinson

Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Filippo Russo (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)