Rob Baloucoune and Mikey Lowry released from Ireland squad for inter-pro

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey returns from injury to face Connacht in Friday night’s rearranged United Rugby Championship game in Belfast.
Rob Baloucoune and Mikey Lowry released from Ireland squad for inter-pro

Rob Baloucoune. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey returns from injury to face Connacht in Friday night’s rearranged United Rugby Championship game in Belfast.

The Ireland international hasn’t played since suffering a hamstring injury in the Champions Cup win over Northampton Saints in December.

Connacht also have a centre back from injury. Tom Daly returns from a three-month injury lay-off to start at inside centre.

Rob Baloucoune and Mikey Lowry have been released from international duties, though another of Ulster’s exciting young backline stars James Hume has been retained by Ireland ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations opener with Wales.

Ethan McIlroy switches wings to accommodate Baloucoune’s return while Billy Burns and Nathan Doak continue their half-back partnership with scrum half John Cooney still out injured.

Gareth Milasinovich makes his first start for Ulster this season at tighthead.

Nick Timoney has also been released from the Ireland camp and is named on the bench while Declan Moore, currently on loan from Munster before joining permanently in the summer, is also named among the replacements.

The game was originally fixed for St Stephen’s Day but had to be postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the Ulster squad.

Connacht won 36-11 when the teams played earlier this season at the Aviva Stadium. Having waited 58 years for a win in Belfast, Connacht have won twice in their last four visits.

ULSTER: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, A Curtis, S McCloskey, E McIlroy; B Burns, N Doak; A Warwick, J Andrew, G Milasinovich; A O’Connor, S Carter; G Jones, M Rea, D Vermeulen.

Replacements: D Moore, C Reid, R Kane, M Kearney, N Timoney, D Shanahan, B Moxham, R Lyttle.

CONNACHT: J Porch; P Sullivan, S Arnold, T Daly, A Wootton; C Fitzgerald, K Marmion; D Buckley, S Delahunt, T Tuimauga; N Murray, O Dowling; C Prendergast, C Oliver, J Butler.

Replacements: J Murphy, J Duggan, G McGrath, L Fifita, P Boyle, C Reilly, C Forde, O McNulty.

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