Brian McLaughlin has called on a mix of youth and experience for his side’s first pre-season friendly against Bayonne on Wednesday evening.
Development outhalf James McKinney and Phoenix Academy winger Ricky Andrew will both make their debut for the senior Ulster side. McKinney was a member of the Ireland U20 squad which competed in the IRB Junior World Championships in June. The twenty year old was awarded a development contract with Ulster ahead of this season. Andrew spent the past season at the Castres Academy, as he completed a compulsory year in France for his French and Spanish Joint Honours degree at Queen’s. The 21 year old is a current member of the Phoenix Ulster Academy and plays his club rugby for Ballymena.
Darren Cave, who showed impressive form on his return from injury at the end of last season, is partnered in the centre by Ian Whitten. At 26, scrum half Paul Marshall is the most senior member of the Ulster backline, which also includes Conor Gaston and Adam D’Arcy in the back three alongside Andrew.
The pack has a more experienced look about it with Tom Court, Andi Kyriacou and Declan Fitzpatrick making up the front row. Tim Barker and Neil McComb have been given an early chance to impress as a second row partnership. Chris Henry will captain the side from openside flanker and will combine once again with back row colleagues Pedrie Wannenburg and Robbie Diack.
New recruits Callum Black, Lewis Stevenson and Mike McComish are among 11 replacements hoping to see some action. Academy players Adam Macklin and John Burns are also in line to taste their first action in a senior Ulster shirt. Dan Tuohy, Ian Humphreys, Nevin Spence, Luke Marshall and Nigel Brady are being rested to give them extra time to prepare for the new season. Meanwhile, Ulster remain without a number of senior players who are with international sides in the build up to the World Cup next month.
Ulster (15-9): A D’Arcy; C Gaston, D Cave, I Whitten, R Andrew; J McKinney, P Marshall;
(1-8): T Court, A Kyriacou, D Fitzpatrick, T Barker, N McComb, P Wannenburg, C Henry, R Diack.
Replacements: C Black, P McAllister, A Macklin, J Cronin, J Burns, L Stevenson, M McComish, W Faloon, I Porter, P Jackson, C Gilroy.