Friday’s PRO14 team: Boosts for Ulster and Scarlets

Team news ahead of Friday’s Guinness PRO14 clashes including Ulster v Scarlets and Dragons v Connacht.

Ulster v Scarlets (7.35)

Chris Henry returns to Ulster’s starting XV and will captain the side for the fixture, which will be played five years to the day since former Ulster player Nevin Spence passed away, along with his father Noel and brother Graham.

There are three more new faces to the team, with Luke Marshall, Kyle McCall and Alan O’Connor also selected.

The latter pair will join Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst and Kieran Treadwell in the front five, while Sean Reidy and Jean Deysel will accompany their skipper in the back row.

Marshall comes in to wear the number 13 jersey, outside Stuart McCloskey in an Irish international midfield.

Ballymena RFC clubmen John Andrew, Andy Warwick and Matty Rea, who earned his first start last week, are named among the replacements with fellow forwards Rodney Ah You and Robbie Diack.

The Scarlets are also boosted by the return of captain Ken Owens as he makes his first appearance in a regional jersey since the emphatic victory over regional rivals Ospreys at the Parc in May.

He slots into the front row alongside international props Rob Evans and Samson Lee whilst Welsh international Jake Ball returns to the line-up after last week’s break to partner Irish lock Tadhg Beirne.

The backrow, of Aaron Shingler, Will Boyde and John Barclay, who were so effective against Zebre last weekend remain unchanged.

The only change of personnel in the backline is the return of Leigh Halfpenny with one positional change that sees Jonny Mcnicholl move across to the wing.

Centre Jonathan Davies, who was named Lion of the Series in New Zealand after playing every minute of every test, will look to make a return to Scarlets action from the replacements bench.

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney; 1 Kyle McCall, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 5 Alan O’Connor, 6 Chris Henry (c), 7 Sean Reidy, 8 Jean Deysel;

Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Robbie Diack,20 Matthew Rea, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Tommy Bowe.

Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny Mcnicholl, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens (c), 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 Will Boyde, 8 John Barclay

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, David Bulbring, Josh Macleod, Jonathan Evans, Rhys Jones, Jonathan Davies

Dragons v Connacht (7.30)

The Dragons have had a double boost for their match against Connacht, this Friday night, as Welsh International Ollie Griffiths returns along with South African Scrum-half Sarel Pretorius.

The young flanker will make his first appearance of the season for the Region following a summer tour with Wales, after making his debut for his county against Tonga.

Including Pretorius and Griffiths, Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman has made three personnel changes and two positional changes to the team that lost out to Edinburgh at Myreside.

With no changes made to the back three, it’s Jack Dixon who joins Tyler Morgan in the centre partnership. The halfbacks also have one change as fly-half Gavin Henson is joined by scrum-half Sarel Pretorius.

Both the front row and second row are unchanged however the back row sees Harrison Keddie swap places with James Benjamin, as he moves to flanker and Benjamin moves to number eight.

The replacements bench sees five changes made, with the inclusion of Gerard Ellis and Robson Blake who are set to make their first Guinness PRO14 appearances.

Connacht have made seven changes to the side that secured a bonus-point win against the Southern Kings last week as the team travel to Rodney Parade.

Rory Scholes, Caolin Blade, Denis Coulson, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux and Jake Heenan all come into the side for their first starts of the season as Eoghan Masterson comes back in for his second start.

Scholes is set to make his competitive debut for the province on the wing in place of Matt Healy.

Blade is included in the side at scrum-half in place of Irish international Kieran Marmion, who is named among the replacements.

The other five changes are in the pack with two alterations in the front row. Coulson makes his first start for Connacht at loosehead prop after coming off the bench to make his debut in the win over the Kings with Carey starting at tighthead prop.

Ireland international Roux and Heenan also come into the side for their first starts of the season with Roux in the second row and Heenan in the back row.

Dragons: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Sarel Pretorius; 1 Brok Harris, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Leon Brown, 4 Rynard Landman, 5 Cory Hill ©, 6 Harrison Keddie, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 8 James Benjamin.

Replacements: Gerard Ellis, Thomas Davies, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Robson Blake, Owain Leonard, Dorian Jones, Jared Rosser.

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 1 Denis Coulson, 2 Tom McCartney, 3 Conor Carey, 4 Quinn Roux, 5 James Cannon, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 7 Jake Heenan, 8 John Muldoon.

Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Eoin Griffin.

Edinburgh v Benetton Rugby (7.35)

Head coach Richard Cockerill has made six changes to the starting XV that beat Dragons last weekend.

At hooker, Ross Ford replaces the injured Stuart McInally and will make his 178th appearance in the black and red. He will pack-down alongside Michele Rizzo and Simon Berghan – who rotates in for Scottish international WP Nel.

Anton Bresler is the only change to the second-row as he replaces Grant Gilchrist. The back-row sees two changes as John Hardie and Cornell du Preez come in for Hamish Watson and last weekend’s man-of-the-match, Jamie Ritchie.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is the only alteration in an otherwise unchanged backline. The 24-year-old scrum-half is replaced by Nathan Fowles, who has featured off the bench in the first two games of the season so far.

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Robbie Fruean, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Nathan Fowles, 1 Michele Rizzo, 2 Ross Ford, 3 Simon Berghan, 4 Anton Bresler, 5 Ben Toolis, 6 Magnus Bradbury (c), 7 John Hardie , 8 Cornell du Preez.

Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 WP Nel, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Junior Rasolea.

Benetton Rugby: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Alberto Sgarbi, 12 Tommaso Allan, 11 Tommaso Benvenuti, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Edoardo Gori, 1 Alberto De Marchi, 2 Engjel Makelara, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Francesco Minto, 7 Abraham Steyn, 8 Dean Budd (c).

Replacements: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Luca Sperandio, 23 Marco Zanon