Ulster face Toulouse in the European Champions Cup on Friday evening: 19:45 kick-off
Rory Best returns to Captain the Irish province
Toulouse makes five changes for trip to Ireland
Ireland Rugby World Cup star hooker Rory Best returns to captain Ulster in Friday’s Champions Cup Pool 1 clash against Toulouse at the Kingspan Stadium.
The Irish province aim to achieve their first win in the competition this season and will have the returning Best starting in the front row alongside Wiehahn Herbst and Kyle McCall.
Ulster’s depleted resources mean lock Alan O’Connor comes into the side to face Toulouse while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall form a new centre partnership and winger Craig Gilroy is recalled.
Speaking ahead of the fixture, Ulster’s Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, is well aware of the threat posed by Toulouse.
“They are predictably unpredictable,” he said.
“They have a massive squad that is full of internationals, so that gives them some really good options all over the park.
“They’re second in the Top 14 so it’s a huge challenge for us, but the boys have shown great character and we’ll step up to the plate. Hopefully the conditions are good and the supporters will see a quality game of rugby.”
Meanwhile, Toulouse have made five changes ahead of the clash, including two positional switches, to their run-on side that came away with a convincing win against bottom of the table Oyonnax in the Top 14 last weekend.
There are positional adjustments for Thierry Dusautoir and Toby Flood while Gael Fickou, Maxime Médard and Louis Picamoles, who will be playing his rugby at Northampton next season, return to the side after being rested for last weekends clash
lster have won three of their four home matches against Toulouse in the Champions Cup including a 30-3 victory the last time these sides met in Belfast.
The spoils are split evenly between these teams overall in the Champions Cup however with each side earning three wins and a draw in the seven games between the two.
The Irish province havewon only two of their last eight Champions Cup matches, this after winning six in a row prior to that.
Ulster lost their last home game against French opposition,but won five in a row against teams from France before that.
Ulster 1/1 Draw 28/1 Toulouse 1/1
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ulster: Ruan Pienaar
Toulouse: Thierry Dusautoir
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy; 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Kyle McCall
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Clive Ross, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Rory Scholes
Toulouse: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Vasil Kakovin
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Edwin Maka, 20 Gregory Lamboley, 21 Gillian Galan, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Alexis Palisson
Date: Friday, December 11
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)