Andrew Trimble will become Ulster’s most capped player overtaking Roger Wilson’s total of 221 caps when he takes the field on Sunday in the European Rugby Champions Cup match against La Rochelle on Sunday. Robbie Diack will become the third Ulster player to reach 200 provincial caps if he appears off the bench.

There’s good news on the injury front as Craig Gilroy and Schalk van der Merwe are close to making first team action while Rory Best makes a return ahead of schedule and is named among the replacements.

Wiehahn Herbst continues his run as the only Ulster player to have featured in every match this season and he is joined in the front row by Rob Herring and Callum Black.. Alan O’Connor returns to the second row and partners Kieran Treadwell. Iain Henderson continues as captain but moves to blindside flanker where he combines with Chris Henry and Sean Reidy in the back row.

Les Kiss has made several surprising changes to the back-line. Paul Marshall starts ahead of John Cooney who picked up a knock last week but is still listed on the bench. Christian Lealiifano, Stuart McCloskey and Charles Piutau continue in their regular positions. Darren Cave replaces Luke Marshall who drops to the bench and Kiss chooses experience on the wings with Trimble and Tommy Bowe.

Last week La Rochelle disposed of Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop handily, picking up a try bonus point in the process. Geoffrey Doumayro stole the show with a brace of tries and is a joy to watch at inside centre. Winger Gabriel Lacroix scored ten times last season. La Rochelle are the form team in France having averaged the most carries, metres, clean breaks and offloads per game in their Top14 campaign They are an exciting side and will provide Ulster with their toughest test yet.

The home side possess a physical front five weighing in at 608 kg, almost 80 kg more than Ulster’s. Already, Ulster have a disadvantage at the scrum, however the back row that Ulster have picked indicates that they will be hoping to move the ball about in a bid to tire their opponents big pack. However, La Rochelle have Victor Vito and Kevin Gourdon in the back row, both adding mobility and will be a threat against Ulster’s isolated carriers.

The French side conceded the least amount of tries in the league last season, but Ulster will get chances and, if they take them, could produce a mighty upset.

The FRU predicts: La Rochelle are in sparkling form and only lost two games at home since the start of last season. A losing bonus point would be a great result for Ulster and anything extra would be a bonus.

La Rochelle   Ulster
Vincent Rattez 15 Charles Piutau
Gabriel Lacroix 14 Andrew Trimble
Geoffrey Doumayrou 13 Darren Cave
Pierre Aguillon 12 Stuart McCloskey
Jeremy Sinzelle 11 Tommy Bowe
Ryan Lamb 10 Christian Lealiifano
Alexi Bales 9 Paul Marshall
Dany Priso 1 Callum Black
Hikairo Forbes 2 Rob Herring
Uini Atonio 3 Wiehahn Herbst
Jason Eaton © 4 Kieran Treadwell
Jone Qovu 5 Alan O’Connor
Kevin Gourdon 6 Iain Henderson ©
Levani Botia 7 Chris Henry
Victor Vito 8 Sean Reidy
Pierre Bourgarit 16 Rory Best
Muke Corbel 17 Kyle McCall
Vincent Pelo 18 Rodney Ah You
William Demotte 19 Robbie Diack
Romain Sazy 20 Matthew Rea
Jean-Victor Goillot 21 John Cooney
Paul jordaan 22 Luke Marshall
Eliott Roudil 23 Jacob Stockdale

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