A youthful Ulster side will travel down to D4 to take on Leinster in the final interpro match until the end of the season.

Rob Lyttle returns from an 11 month lay off while Ballymena’s Bruce Houston and Banbridge’s Caleb Montgomery will make their Ulster senior debuts if they appear off the bench.

Angus Kernohan and Johnny McPhillips are the only players to retain last week’s jerseys while Darren Cave moves to outside centre and Nick Timoney moves to eight.

Kyle McCall, Adam McBurney and Wiehahn Herbst form a new front row. McCall makes his first start of the season while it’s Herbst’s first appearance in an Ulster shirt since the match against the Cheetahs at the end of September. Matthew Dalton also makes his first appearance of the season and is partnered in the second row by the returning Alan O’Connor who captains the side. Greg Jones makes his first start since January in the back row alongside the more familiar Sean Reidy and Nick Timoney.

Johnny McPhillips continues as Ulster’s out half but is partnered by Dave Shanahan at scrum half. James Hume comes in for Will Addison with Darren Cave moving into the outside centre channel. At just 21 years of age Rob Lyttle is the oldest of Ulster’s back three with Michael Lowry, 20, returning to fullback after injury and Angus Kernohan, 19, resuming as Ulster’s left wing option.

For a sense of how young this side is, Darren Cave and Wiehahn Herbst are the only players over 30 to feature in the starting line up and seven of the players are under the age of 23. Cave and Herbst bring the average age of the squad up to 23.7 but Ulster will also look to Shanahan, McPhillips, McCall, Reidy, O’Connor and Timoney to bring match day experience to the side.

I think Ulster are in for a difficult evening tomorrow. While Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter and Rob Kearney are the only regular Irish internationals in Leinster’s side, the depth at their disposal is scary, particularly when you consider that Ireland’s stand out player during the most recent U20 World Championship, Caelan Doris, only makes the bench. They’ve still named a useful side – watch out for Scott Penny and Conor O’Brien – so I don’t see Ulster getting anything from the match.

Ulster’s front row is up against it facing an all-international trio but this represents an excellent chance to test themselves against the best. Ulster’s lineout has been inconsistent to say the least so we need to see Alan O’Connor take control of this particular facet of the game if we’re to get anything from the match.

Nevertheless, I’m half expecting this Ulster side to give it a go from the off. Lyttle, Lowry, Kernohan, Hume and McPhillips have shown that they like to throw the ball about and are great on the counter attack. With Ulster’s recent record in Dublin and Leinster’s position at the top of the table, there’s not a lot stake – bar interprovincial bragging rights – and it definitely won’t be the defining match of Ulster’s season.

The FRU predicts: In terms of strength in squad depth I’d say Saracens are the only European side to come close to Leinster at the minute – if they’d kept their heads in the first half last week, Munster were definitely there for the taking. Unfortunately I see only one result tomorrow and that’s a blue win. What will be key however, is the attitudes of the Ulster players regardless of whatever score it is.

However, every so often Ulster pull off a memorable performance and gain a result when, on paper, they shouldn’t. Let’s hope tomorrow is one of those evenings.

Leinster Ulster
Rob Kearney 15 Michael Lowry
Adam Byrne 14 Rob Lyttle
Conor O’Brien 13 Darren Cave
Noel Reid 12 James Hume
Barry Daly 11 Angus Kernohan
Ciarán Frawley 10 Johnny McPhillips
Jamison Gibson-Park 9 David Shanahan
Jack McGrath 1 Kyle McCall
Seán Cronin 2 Adam McBurney
Andrew Porter 3 Wiehahn Herbst
Ross Molony 4 Matthew Dalton
Mick Kearney 5 Alan O’Connor
Josh Murphy 6 Greg Jones
Scott Penny 7 Sean Reidy
Max Deegan 8 Nick Timoney
James Tracy 16 John Andrew
Ed Byrne 17 Andrew Warwick
Michael Bent 18 Tom O’Toole
Oisín Dowling 19 Caleb Montgomery
Caelan Doris 20 Clive Ross
Hugh O’Sullivan 21 Johnny Stewart
Ross Byrne 22 Bruce Houston
Jimmy O’Brien 23 Peter Nelson

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