Craig Gilroy and Louis Ludik are restored to the Ulster team for the visit of La Rochelle
European Rugby Champions Cup Pool One
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Date: Saturday, 13 January Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio Ulster medium wave and the BBC Sport website

Ulster have made five changes to their starting team for Saturday’s vital Pool One Champions Cup game with Top 14 side La Rochelle at Kingspan Stadium.

Wing Craig Gilroy and Louis Ludik, named at outside centre, come into the backs in place of Andrew Trimble and Darren Cave, who drops to the bench.

John Cooney returns at scrum-half, with lock Alan O’Connor and number eight Nick Timoney called into the line-up.

Ulster are two points behind the French outfit in the table.

After securing back-to-back wins over Harlequins in December, the Irish province will be targeting another victory to boost their hopes of making the quarter-finals of the competition.

Les Kiss’s side, whose form in the Pro14 has been indifferent in recent months, lost 41-17 to La Rochelle when the sides met in October.

CHAMPIONS CUP POOL 1
Team Played Won Lost For Against Bonus Pts Points
La Rochelle 4 3 1 127 94 3 15
Ulster 4 3 1 105 79 1 13
Wasps 4 2 2 100 81 2 6
Harlequins 4 0 3 66 144 2 2

A bonus point win for La Rochelle would effectively seal their place in the last eight but they will be hoping to bounce back from a 21-3 reverse at the hands of Wasps last month.

Peter Browne and Jean Deysel drop out of the starting XV, with Kieran Treadwell and Chris Henry named among the replacements after recovering from injury.

Prop Wiehahn Herbst is ruled out with a slight calf issue, with Tommy Bowe facing an absence of up to eight weeks after sustaining a shoulder injury in the hammering by Leinster last Saturday.

The match will be Australian fly-half Lealiifano’s last in Belfast before he returns home to play for the Brumbies in Super 14.

Captain Rory Best will make only his fifth appearance of the season for Ulster.

Johnny McPhillips, added to the official Ulster panel for the Champions Cup this week, could make his European debut after being included in the replacements.

Rory Best says Ulster must react to Dublin drubbing against La Rochelle

Ulster: C Piutau; C Gilroy, L Ludik, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; C Lealiifano, J Cooney; C Black, R Best (capt), R Ah You; A O’Connor, I Henderson; M Rea, S Reidy, N Timoney.

Replacements: R Herring, K McCall, R Kane, K Treadwell, C Henry, D Shanahan, J McPhillips, D Cave.

La Rochelle: K Murimurivalu; G Lacroix, G Doumayrou, P Aguillon, V Rattez; J Sinzelle, A Bales; D Priso, P Bourgarit, U Atonio, J Eaton, M Tanguy, B Veivuke, K Gourdon, V Vito.

Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, V Pelo, M Boughanmi, G Lamboley, A Amosa, T Kerr Barlow, B Nobles, P Jordaan.

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