McAllister handed rare Ulster chance

BALLYNAHINCH’S Paddy McAllister gets a rare start when he lines out at loose-head as Ulster tackle Italian visitors Aironi in the first of important back-to-back Heineken Cup fixtures at Ravenhill this evening.

The 22-year-old comes in for Ireland’s Tom Court, who is rested, and the blonde bombshell is keen to test himself at the top level in getting a chance to prove his ability in the tight against what will be a typically hard-nosed Italian front row.

McAllister is just one of two changes made by coach Brian McLaughlin from last week’s victory over the Scarlets. Springbok scrum-half Ruan Pienaar makes only his second start of the season after recovering from a pulled hamstring. It means livewire Paul Marshall is on the bench alongside new signing Stefan Terblanche, who arrived in the province last weekend from Durban.

“Paul is a terrific player and has proved himself over the past few weeks,” said McLaughlin. “But Ruan was the Player of the Year last season so he deserves a chance. His match time has been limited so it will be good for him to get some time on the pitch. We now have two quality scrum-halves.”

The quietly-spoken Pienaar, meanwhile, is itching to get a bit of the action after his time on the sidelines. But he says he has to put the hamstring issue behind him.

“You always think about the hamstring and if it will happen again. I’ve never had a problem with it before, it just happened during training,” said Pienaar. “But thankfully it’s feeling good and I’ve been doing two-and-a-half weeks of running now and getting back to fitness. But there’s still a long way to go.”

ULSTER: A D’Arcy, A Trimble, D Cave, N Spence, C Gilroy, I Humphreys, R Pienaar; P McAllister, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller [capt], D Tuohy, S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg.

Replacements: A Kyriacou, T Court, A Macklin, L Stevenson, R Diack, P Marshall, P Jackson, S Terblanche.

AIRONI: G Toniolatti, S Sinoti, R Quartaroli, G Pizarro, M Pratichetti, T Tebaldi, T Keats; S Perugini, F Ongaro, L Romano, C del Fava, M Bortolami [capt], N Cattina, S Favaro, J Sole.

Replacements: T D’Apice, A de Marchi, L Redolfini, G Biagi, F Ferrarini, G Bronzini, N Olivier, G Pavan.

Referee: Andrew Small (England).

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