Ulster v Northampton Saints: Full team news for Friday's Champions Cup clash

Courtney LawesCourtney Lawes
Courtney Lawes
Courtney Lawes returns to the Saints starting line-up for Friday night's Champions Cup clash with Ulster (kick-off 8pm).

Lawes has missed the past two matches due to an enforced rest week and Covid-19 but he has been back in training since Monday and is handed the No.6 shirt in Belfast.

Tom Wood is also selected in the back row, starting at No.8 as Juarno Augustus drops to the bench.

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Mike Haywood comes in for Sam Matavesi at hooker and Alex Waller replaces Nick Auterac at loosehead.

Dan Biggar misses this game due to an ongoing thigh problem, meaning George Furbank shifts from full-back to fly-half.

Ahsee Tuala fills in for Furbank at 15, with the Samoa ace making his first appearance since the first game of the season.

Ollie Sleightholme comes in on the wing for Tommy Freeman, who has been ruled out for four to six weeks with a shoulder injury sustained during the 45-14 defeat to Racing 92 last Friday night.

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Teimana Harrison, Paul Hill Alex Moon and Taqele Naiyaravoro are all currently on the injured list alongside Biggar and Freeman.

For Ulster, captain Iain Henderson makes his return from injury to lead the team against Saints.

Henderson is one of three changes to the side that defeated Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel-Michelin last Saturday, and he will start in the second row alongside Alan O’Connor.

In the front row, Marty Moore returns to pack down at tighthead, with Rob Herring at hooker and Andrew Warwick at loosehead.

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Last Saturday’s back row of Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney and Duane Vermeulen has been retained.

In the back three, Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy retain their starting berths at full-back and left wing respectively, with Craig Gilroy coming in to start on the right wing.

Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will again form the midfield partnership, while the half-back pairing of Billy Burns and last week’s man of the match, John Cooney, is also retained.

The coaching team has again opted for a 6-2 split on the bench.

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Ulster: Lowry; Gilroy, Hume, McCloskey, McIlroy; Burns, Cooney; Warwick, Herring, M Moore; O'Connor, Henderson (c); Rea, Timoney, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Andrew, McGrath, O'Toole, Treadwell, Carter, Jones, Doak, S Moore.

Saints: Tuala; Sleightholme, Proctor, Dingwall, Skosan; Furbank, Mitchell; Waller, Haywood, Painter; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Ludlam (c), Wood.

Replacements: Fish, Iyogun, Carey, Coles, Augustus, James, Grayson, Hutchinson.

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