By Q Radio Sport
Christian Lealiifano is set to make his first Ulster appearance on Friday in the Guinness PRO14 opener versus the Toyota Cheetahs at Kingspan Stadium
Fellow summer signings Jean Deysel and John Cooney will also make their competitive debuts for the Province, having both lined out during the pre-season fixtures.
Friday's match will mark a momentous chapter in the history of the PRO14 Championship, as Southern Hemisphere sides join the competition for the first time, with the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs making their maiden trip to Belfast.
Cooney and Lealiifano will have their first chance to form an exciting new half back partnership, while Stuart McCloskey and Tommy Bowe will link up in midfield.
📣 TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT | Christian Lealiifano to make Ulster debut in Friday’s historic PRO14 opener versus Cheetahs ➡ https://t.co/qiSle9qEz4 pic.twitter.com/l6NDKQ5C7v— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) August 31, 2017
Louis Ludik, Andrew Trimble and Charles Piutau will form an experienced back three combination.
Chris Henry will captain the side from openside flanker, in what is an abrasive looking back row with the South African duo of Deysel and Marcell Coetzee at blindside and number 8 respectively.
The front five is made up of Kyle McCall, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row, with Robbie Diack and Alan O'Connor paired once again in the second row.
INJURY UPDATE | @cgilroy14 has a stress fracture in his lower back & is expected to be out of action until late November. Get well soon! pic.twitter.com/wA6AgydFk8— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) August 31, 2017
Back row forward Matthew Rea could earn his first Ulster cap, as he is included in the replacements along with fellow forwards John Andrew, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You and Sean Reidy. David Shanahan, Peter Nelson and Darren Cave will provide the backline cover from the bench.
Meanwhile, Craig Gilroy has a stress fracture in his lower back and he is expected to be out of action until late November.
Ulster Rugby team to play Toyota Cheetahs, Friday 1st September at Kingspan Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm:
(1-8): Kyle McCall, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Robbie Diack, Alan O'Connor, Jean Deysel, Chris Henry (captain), Marcell Coetzee;
(9-15): John Cooney, Christian Lealiifano, Louis Ludik, Stuart McCloskey, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Charles Piutau.
Replacements (16-23): John Andrew, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Peter Nelson, Darren Cave.