Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola has had to shuffle his deck ahead of tonight’s crucial Champions Cup round of 16 second leg with Ulster after traveling to Belfast without several key men, including some of France’s Grand Slam stars.
Six points adrift of the reigning champions after the first leg, influential hooker Julien Marchand has not recovered from the calf injury that saw him miss the first meeting and deprived Toulouse of one of the world’s best in his position.
Two of his international colleagues are also missing. Cyril Baille, a substitute from the bench last week, is absent from the 23-team tonight while Francois Cros, who started last time out, is also out through injury.
While winger Juan Cruz Mallia is suspended after his red card seven days ago, Zach Holmes has suffered a concussion and will be replaced in midfield by Samoan international Tim Nanai-Williams, brother of former Ulster icon Nick Williams.
Reigning World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont had missed training earlier in the week due to illness, but the superstar scrum half is poised to play on a ground he wreaked so much damage on when those sides were last at Ravenhill in December 2020 played.
Things are much more settled for Ulster. Ben Moxham is absent, having suffered a concussion in the air crash that saw Mallia sacked, but his absence will be offset by the return of Ethan McIlroy after suffering a concussion himself during the South African mini-tour against the Bulls.
That’s the only change due to injury, while the only other change is Andrew Warwick and Eric O’Sullivan swapping shirts. Warwick, who started the first three pool games, came off the bench with great success in Toulouse, scoring a crucial try to land alongside Robert Baloucoune’s headline-grabbing hat-trick.
In essence, taking into account long-term injured duo Will Addison and Jacob Stockdale, Ulster head coach Dan McFarland’s side appear to be his favorites for the big games this season.
In the back row, Ireland international Nick Timoney will make his 100th provincial appearance.
The 26-year-old, who has captained the side throughout this season, was dropped entirely from the squad for this game just over a year and a half ago and has turned fortunes to become one of the first names on the team sheet and the proud owner of two Ireland test caps.
Ulster-Lowry; Baloucoune, Hume, McCloskey, McIlroy; Burns, Cooney; Warwick, Herring, Moore; O’Connor, Henderson (Captain), Rea, Timoney, Vermeulen. Representatives: Roberts, O’Sullivan, O’Toole, Treadwell, Murphy, Doak, Marshall, Lyttle.
Toulouse-Ramos; Delibes, Nanai-Williams, Ahki, Lebel; Ntamack, Dupont (Captain); Neti, Mauvaka, Faumuina; Ro Arnold, Ri Arnold; Elstadt, Tolofua, Jelonch. Representatives: Cramont, Ainu’u, Aldegheri, Meafou, Flament, Miquel, Germain, Tauzin.
Ref – M Carley (Eng)
Ulster vs Toulouse,
Live BT Sport 8.0
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/champions-cup/toulouse-forced-to-shuffle-deck-with-absence-of-key-french-trio-for-ulster-rematch-41558277.html Toulouse need to shuffle the deck as they lack the key French trio for the Ulster rematch