The Ulster Ravens coaching team of Allen Clarke and Kieran Campbell have named a very strong side to take on Munster A at Deramore Park on Friday (3pm kick off).
Chris Henry, making his return to competitive action, will lead the side from the back row, while fellow international Dan Tuohy will start in the second row. Alan O’Connor will partner Tuohy at lock, with Iain Henderson and Sean O’Connell completing the back row alongside Henry.
Belfast Harlequins duo Niall Annett and Richard Lutton will start in the front row along with Conor Carey.
Blane McIlroy and Niall O’Connor, who combined well during Ulster’s pre-season friendlies, will form the half back partnership. Nevin Spence and Stuart McCloskey will line up in midfield, with Chris Cochrane and Chris Colvin starting on the wings. The starting team is completed by Academy fullback Ricky Andrew.
Munster have also named a strong side for the clash, with Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer and Danny Barnes all lining out for the British & Irish Cup holders.
Ravens: Ricky Andrew, Chris Colvin, Stuart McCloskey, Nevin Spence, Chris Cochrane, Niall O’Connor, Blane McIlroy, Richard Lutton, Niall Annett, Conor Carey, Alan O’Connor, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry (c), Sean O’Connell. Replacements: John Burns, Michael Cromie, Glenn Sinnamon, James Simpson, Neil Faloon, Scott Gibson, Ritchie McMaster, Michael McCauley.
It should be a well drilled side with Clarke and Campbell in charge. Clarke likes to field an abrasive pack and with the likes of Henry, Annett, Tuohy and Henderson available there’s a solid core to the pack. I thought he had another week or two of rehab but it’s good to see Henderson slotting in at openside for what could be a big season for the youngster.
O’Connor get’s a chance to find some confidence with the pressure off and it’s a useful looking back line if he can get them moving. Spence and McCloskey could be the match winning combination with the Dungannon centre showing some good form last season, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s ready for the step up.