Pro12: Ulster v Zebre (Fri)

Chris Henry
Chris Henry has not played since undergoing shoulder surgery in the summer
Guinness Pro12: Ulster v Zebre
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Date: Friday, 25 November Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC2 NI and the BBC Sport website; Score updates and report on BBC Sport website

Chris Henry will play his first game of the season in Ulster's Pro12 contest against Zebre on Friday while Luke Marshall is also named in the side.

Ireland flanker Henry, 32, missed the early part of the season following shoulder surgery in the summer.

Marshall and Craig Gilroy are released from the Ireland squad for the must-win game against the Italians at Kingspan.

Fit-again Louis Ludik will partner Marshall at centre with Charles Piutau and Tommy Bowe also in the backs.

South African Ludik has been out for several weeks because of a fractured cheekbone.

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Ulster Head coach Neil Doak wants Ulster to 'up' their physicality against Zebre

The replacements bench includes Gilroy and other Ireland internationals Dan Tuohy and Robbie Diack but Stuart McCloskey is not risked as he continues to recover from a foot injury.

Jacob Stockdale is named at wing after scoring a try in the defeat by Edinburgh three weeks ago while Paddy Jackson's absence because of Ireland duty means that Brett Herron partners Ruan Pienaar at half-back.

Henry, who will earn his 151st Ulster cap, will be partnered by Clive Ross and Sean Reidy in the back row.

Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe will start in the second row with skipper Rob Herring joining Kyle McCall and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row.

Ulster, Pro12 leaders earlier in the season, have slipped to fifth place in the table after three defeats in a row.

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Louis Ludik and Ulster prepare to face Zebre

They will be expected to beat one-from-bottom Zebre in Belfast, and after that they face Cardiff away on 3 December.

"We are disappointed about the way things have been going recently, after making a good start to the season," said head coach Neil Doak.

"In the last couple of matches we have not been as clinical as we were in earlier games.

"We have had a break and maybe that has done us good.

"We know what Zebre are going to bring with their physicality. We have to match that, but also be smart with our rugby and clinical when we get opportunities in the right areas."

Zebre have one win from their seven games so far, stunning Edinburgh 19-14 at Murrayfield in their second last game on 28 October before a 33-10 home defeat by leaders Leinster a week later.

However, Zebre will only have one starter - centre and captain Tommaso Castello - from the Edinburgh win for Friday's game with backs Edoardo Padovani, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Giovanbattista Vendetti and Carlo Canna missing along with prop Tommaso D'Apice and number eight Andries Van Schalkwyk.

All seven were part of the Italy squad which shocked South Africa in Florence last weekend.


Ulster: C Piutau; T Bowe, L Ludik, L Marshall, J Stockdale; B Herron, R Pienaar; K McCall, R Herring (capt), W Herbst; P Browne, F van der Merwe; C Ross, C Henry, S Reidy;

Replacements: J Andrew, C Black, A Warwick, D Tuohy, R Diack, P Marshall, C Gilroy, R Lyttle.

Zebre: D Berryman; S Balocchi, M Pratichetti, T Castello (capt), M Bellini; A Chiesa, G Palazzani; B Postiglioni, C Festuccia, D Chistolini; G Koegelenberg, F Ruzza; G Pettinelli, J Meyer, D Minnie.

Replacements: L Luus, A De Marchi, G Roan, V Bernabo, G Licata, C Engelbrecht, M Azzolini, L Greeff