Heineken Champions Cup: Madigan makes Ulster return as Cooney left out for La Rochelle trip

Heineken Champions Cup: Madigan makes Ulster return as Cooney left out for La Rochelle trip

Madigan will line up at fly-half for Ulster
Venue: Stade Marcel-Deflandre Date: Saturday, 14 January Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio Ulster; Match report on BBC Sport website

Ulster fly-half Ian Madigan will make his return from injury in Saturday evening’s European Champions Cup game away to holders La Rochelle.

There is no place in the team or on the bench, however, for regular scrum-half John Cooney, with Ulster saying his absence is due to squad rotation.

Madigan is one of eight changes for the province from last weekend’s 31-29 defeat by Benetton in the URC.

South African Duane Vermeulen starts at number eight for out-of-form Ulster.

The province are looking for their first European win this season, having lost their opening two games to Sale Sharks and La Rochelle.

Head coach Dan McFarland is without Ireland wing Robert Baloucoune and flanker Sean Reffell who picked up hamstring and ankle injuries respectively against Benetton in Italy.

Last weekend’s centre pairing of Stuart McCloskey and James Hume were not considered for selection and are replaced by Stewart Moore and Luke Marshall.

Rob Lyttle takes Baloucoune’s place on the wing with Nathan Doak coming in at scrum-half for Cooney and Madigan replacing Billy Burns, who drops to the bench.

There are three changes In the pack, with Rory Sutherland coming in at prop and Alan O’Connor starting in the second row as well as Vermeulen at number eight.

Saturday’s away defeat by Benetton was Ulster’s fifth loss in six matches, but McFarland insisted this week that he has full belief in his processes as the head coach despite the club’s poor form.

They began this season’s European campaign by suffering a 39-0 hammering away to Sale Sharks before losing 36-29 to La Rochelle in their next game.

That second match was controversially switched to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium and played behind closed doors after Ulster’s Kingpsan Stadium pitch was deemed unplayable the day before the game.

Ulster: Lowry, Lyttle, Moore, Marshall, Stockdale, Madigan, Doak; Rory Sutherland, Herring, Toomaga-Allen, Alan O’Connor, Treadwell, Henderson (capt), Timoney, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Andrew, O’Sullivan, Warwick, Sheridan, McCann, McDonald, Burns, McIlroy.

La Rochelle: Paiva, Lagrange, Colombe Reazel, Dillane, Picquette, Bourdeau, Boudehent; Alldritt, (capt), Berjoni, Hastoy, Boudehent, Favre, Seuteni, Thomas, Dulin.

Replacements: Lespiaucq, Wardi, Sclavi, Sazy, Hatherell, Kerr-Barlow, Popelin, Rhule.

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