Adam McBurney captains a young Ulster side ahead of the challenge of Uruguay tomorrow night at Kingspan Stadium.
It is the first time Ulster have played international opposition since they defeated Portugal ten years ago.
Schalk van der Merwe will make his first appearance of the season at loosehead prop with Tom O’Toole occupying the tighthead spot. Ireland U20 international, Matthew Dalton starts in the second row alongside Alex Thompson who re-signed for Ulster from Terenure College in the offseason. Brothers Matthew Rea and Marcus Rea are named as Ulster’s flankers while Greg Jones is the number eight.
Jonny Stewart and Johnny McPhillips start as Ulster’s half back pairing while James Hume moves to inside centre after a solid first appearance at 13 against Benetton last week. Stewart Moore returns to the outside centre position after featuring there against Gloucester in Ulster’s first pre-season fixture. Angus Kernohan, Iwan Hughes and Bruce Houston are Ulster’s back three.
With an average age of just 21, Schalk van der Merwe and Matthew Rea are the only players over the age of 25. Going up against a tier two international side will provide invaluable experience. The majority of the side taking the field tomorrow played for Ulster in their Celtic Cup campaign earlier in the season. Fullback, Bruce Houston kicked 11 conversions, two penalties as well as landing a drop goal in six A team appearances.
Iwan Hughes, Marcus Rea and Houston started all six games in Celtic Cup campaign as did Peter Cooper who is named on the bench. Aaron Sexton, who was expected to feature in this match, topped the try scoring charts with six, while Cooper and James Hume came second with two tries each.
The touring side took on Cardiff Blues on Tuesday but despite only trailing 12-7 at the break, Cardiff pulled away in the second half and recorded a comfortable 45-21 win. While we will get to see what the next generation of Ulstermen have to offer tomorrow night, Uruguay will use this match as preparation ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan. They’ve a tough group containing Australia, Wales, Georgia and Fiji and are probably favourites to finish bottom.
They secured qualification to next year’s tournament after defeating Canada, who were in Ireland’s group in 2015, 38-29 in Vancouver and 32-31 in Montevideo. They finished third in the Americas Rugby Championship at the start of the year, where they recorded wins over Brazil and Chile and a heavy defeat to USA.
Success beckoned in the Nations Cup where they defeated an Argentina XV 26-20 to win the competition in Montevideo. They defeated Fiji B 29-10 and Italy B 23-19 to set up a winner-takes-all match against Argentina in the final fixture.
The FRU predicts: It’s a tough one to call as Uruguay are a fairly unknown quantity. I’ll go with Ulster by 15 points.
|Bruce Houston||15||Rodrigo Silva|
|Iwan Hughes||14||Leandro Leivas|
|Stuart Moore||13||Jean Manuel Cat|
|James Hume||12||Andres Vilaseca|
|Angus Kernohan||11||Gaston Mieres|
|Johnny McPhillips||10||Felipe Berchesi|
|Jonny Stewart||9||Santiago Arata|
|Schalk vd Merwe||1||Mateo Sanguinetti|
|Adam McBurney||2||German Kessler|
|Tom O’Toole||3||Juan Pedro Rombys|
|Matthew Dalton||4||Ignacio Dotti|
|Alex Thompson||5||Diego Magno|
|Matthew Rea||6||Juan Gaminara|
|Marcus Rea||7||Juan Diego Ormaechea|
|Greg Jones||8||Alejandro Nieto|
|Zac McCall||16||Manuel Ardao|
|Corrie Barrett||17||Matias Benitez|
|Peter Cooper||18||Juan Echeverria|
|Joe Dunleavy||19||Manuel Leindekar|
|David McCann||20||Manuel Diana|
|Jonah Mau’u||21||Leandro Segredo|
|Graham Curtis||22||Tomas Inciarte|
|Michael Stronge||23||Agustin Della Corte|