Jacob Stockdale will play at full-back tomorrow night for Ulster in their semi-final showdown with Glasgow Warriors, after overcoming his hamstring injury.
Ulster travel to the Scotstoun stadium for a place in the PRO14 final in a re-run of the 2015 last four tie, which Glasgow won (16-14) on their way to the title.
This time if the province win, they will be part of an all-Irish final against either Munster or Leinster.
Stockdale was hailed by Ugo Monye earlier this year as “the best winger in the world”, but surprisingly, Ulster director of rugby Dan McFarland has chosen to play him out of usual position in this crucial game.
The Ireland international will slot in to the full-back berth which has been mainly occupied by Louis Ludik or Michael Lowry this season. But Ludik, himself returning from an injury, has been switched onto the wing as part of McFarland’s plans.
On Stockdale and Ludik becoming available for selection for the PRO14 showdown, McFarland aired no qualms over the duo’s ability to step in straight away.
McFarland said: “There are a lot of times when players get injured and take a period of time, but they’re used to coming straight back into the team. The more experience they get, the better they are at that.
“The days of saying ‘well he’s been out for six weeks and he needs two weeks playing at a lower level before he comes back in’, they’ve gone.”
The Ulster boss is returning to Glasgow, where he spent two years working underneath the now Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend.
Centre Darren Cave starts among the substitutes, but if called upon, will move level with Andrew Trimble as the club’s most capped player; and with Rory Best retiring, he will hope he can prolong his Ulster career one game further.
Stuart Hogg starts in what will be his last game in front of the Glaswegian crowd before he moves across the border to Exeter Chiefs.
Making his debut eight years ago, Hogg has gone onto become the Warriors youngest player to reach a century of appearances, and is sure to run out to rapturous applause on Friday night.
Warriors Canadian wing DTH van der Merwe is back ahead of schedule from shoulder surgery, and Callum Gibbins is back to captain the Scottish side.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Kyle Steyn, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price; 1 Jamie Bhatti, 2 Fraser Brown, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Scott Cummings, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 Robert Harley, 7 Callum Gibbins (capt), 8 Matt Fagerson,
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Ryan Wilson, 20 Tom Gordon, 21 George Horne, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Huw Jones
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 13 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Luis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney; 1 Eric O’Sullivan, 2 Rory Best (capt), 3 Ross Kane, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 6 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy, 8 Marcell Coetzee,
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Michael Lowry, 23 Darren Cave
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