Darren Cave, who will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season, will captain the side from outside centre.
Abbey Insurance Academy back row Marcus Rea will make his senior debut for the Province if he’s called upon from the bench, meaning it could be a special day for the Rea family, with brother Matty set to start.
David Busby, who suffered a long-term knee injury in pre-season, is in line to make his first appearance of the season. The utility back has previously played four games and scored a try on his debut against Zebre in February 2017.
Busby will be joined in the back three by Academy players Michael Lowry and Angus Kernohan, who have made a combined total of 30 appearances to date this season. Cave will partner Peter Nelson in midfield, with David Shanahan and Johnny McPhillips paired at half-back by the Ulster coaching team.
Andy Warwick, John Andrew and Ross Kane are selected in the front row, with Ian Nagle and Alan O’Connor ready to offer support from the second row. Matty Rea, Clive Ross and Sean Reidy complete the forward pack.
Tommy O’Hagan and Jack Owens could make just their second appearances after being named among the replacements alongside Marcus Rea. Adam McBurney, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney, Jonny Stewart and Rob Lyttle are the other options on the bench.
The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Ulster Rugby on Saturday at Kingspan Stadium in the final round of Guinness PRO14 regular season games has been announced by head coach Leo Cullen (KO 5.15pm, live on eir Sport, Premier Sports, DAZN).
Ross Byrne will captain the province for the first time, starting in a half-back partnership with Nick McCarthy.
The 24-year-old has gone on to make 68 appearances for the province to-date, scoring 368 points – the eighth highest tally of all-time for Leinster. Five points against Ulster on Saturday would see Byrne surpass Alan McGowan on Leinster’s all-time point scorers list.
Elsewhere in the back line, the experienced Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden are selected on the wings with Jimmy O’Brien at full-back completing the back three.
Noel Reid and Joe Tomane are Leinster’s starting centre partnership for Saturday’s game in Belfast.
Jack McGrath, Bryan Byrne and Michael Bent have been selected in the Leinster front row.
Oisín Dowling will make his first senior start alongside Josh Murphy in the second row.
Will Connors continues his return from an ACL injury to start in the back row along with Max Deegan and Caelan Doris, who both came off the bench in last Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final victory over Toulouse.
Ryan Baird, who made two appearances for Ireland U20 in their recent Six Nations Grand Slam-winning campaign, could make his senior debut from the bench. He will become the 57th player used by Cullen this season should he be called upon.
Munster confirm Zebo signing
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.
In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.
Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.
“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”
Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.
“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”
Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early
Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.
With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.
Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.
Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.
Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre
21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.
A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.
Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.
Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.