Five Debutants In Ulster Rugby I XV: Go Chris Farrell, Michael Allen, Peter Nelson, James McKinney & Callum Black

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Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has handed competitive debuts to five players for the RaboDirect PRO12 Boxing Day clash against Leinster at the RDS (kick off 5.30).

With two games in the space of just four days, McLaughlin has had to make full use of his entire squad over the festive period. Following the Boxing Day match in Dublin, Ulster will face Munster at a sold out Ravenhill on Friday 30th December.

Three debutants will start in the backline; centres Chris Farrell and Michael Allen, along with fullback Peter Nelson who has been very impressive for the Ravens in their British & Irish Cup campaign so far this season.

Elsewhere in the backs, Paul Marshall will be partnered at half back by James McKinney, who will make his first start for the Province after a brief substitute appearance against the Ospreys in September. Simon Danielli returns to the team and will occupy the left wing berth, with Phoenix Academy winger Chris Cochrane lining out on the other flank.

Up front, Callum Black, who arrived in Belfast during the summer from Worcester, will make his senior Ulster debut at loosehead prop, while Academy player Ali Birch, a mainstay of the Ulster Ravens side, will make his first senior appearance at openside flanker. Birch is joined in the back row by Robbie Diack and Neil McComb, who while more used to the second row, will don the no6 jersey.

Tim Barker and Lewis Stevenson form an experienced second row combination, while Black is joined by captain Nigel Brady, and Adam Macklin in the front row.

On the bench, Niall Annett, James Simpson, Conor Joyce and Stuart Olding are all in line for a debut if their services are required while Jerry Cronin, Ian Porter, Conor Gaston and Ireland international Tom Court are the other replacements.

RaboDirect PRO12 table topping Leinster are unbeaten in their last eleven fixtures in all competitions since Glasgow lowered their colours at the RDS on 17 September. The Leinstermen’s only defeat in their last five clashes with a fellow Irish province was 9-19 to Munster in last season’s final.

Ulster have won their last three games but have not won away from home in the RaboDirect PRO12 since a trip to Aironi on 10 September. The Ulstermen’s most recent victory on the road to a fellow Irish province was on 25 September 2009 in Connacht.

Ulster Match Day Squad to face Leinster, Monday 26th December, RDS, Dublin (kick-off 5.30pm)
(15-9): P Nelson; C Cochrane, M Allen, C Farrell, S Danielli; J McKinney, P Marshall;
(1-8): C Black, N Brady (capt), A Macklin, T Barker, L Stevenson, N McComb, A Birch, R Diack;
Replacements (16-23): N Annett, J Cronin, T Court, J Simpson, C Joyce, I Porter, S Olding, C Gaston

Player Information

Peter Nelson
DOB: 05.10.92
Height: 1.79m
Weight: 82kg
Position: Fullback
Club: Dungannon

Chris Cochrane
DOB: 18.12.88
Height: 1.84m
Weight: 90kg
Position: Wing
Club: Dungannon

Michael Allen
DOB: 28.11.90
Height: 1.81m
Weight: 96kg
Position: Centre
Club: Belfast Harlequins

Chris Farrell
DOB: 16.03.93
Height: 1.95m
Weight: 102kg
Position: Centre
Club: Dungannon

Ali Birch
DOB: 13.10.88
Height: 1.88m
Weight: 98kg
Position: Back row
Club: Dungannon

Niall Annett
DOB: 07.05.91
Height: 1.85m
Weight: 102kg
Position: Hooker
Club: Belfast Harlequins

James Simpson
DOB: 03.11.90
Height: 1.96m
Weight: 109kg
Position: Second row
Club: Ballymena

Conor Joyce
DOB: 05.07.93
Height: 1.91m
Weight: 103kg
Position: Back row
Club: Queen’s University

Stuart Olding
DOB: 11.03.93
Height: 1.80m
Weight: 87kg
Position: Outhalf
Club: Belfast Harlequins

Conor Gaston
DOB: 05.08.90
Height: 1.86m
Weight: 96kg
Position: Wing
Club: Dungannon

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