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Published: 14:29 | 12/10/17

Henderson to skipper Ulster against Wasps

Iain Henderson will captain Ulster for the first time in Friday's Champions Cup tie against Wasps in Belfast.

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss has made three changes to the side that beat Connacht 16-8 last Friday in the Pro 14, with winger Louis Ludik and loose forwards Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy coming in for Tommy Bowe and the injured Alan O'Connor and Chris Henry.

Kiss has made one positional change, with Ireland forward Henderson moving from blindside flanker to second row for Ulster's Pool A opener, which is live on BT Sport 2 [kick off 7.45pm] on the eir Sport pack.

Rory Best, Marcell Coetzee, Craig Gilroy, Jared Payne and Schalk van der Merwe all miss the game through injury.

Ulster half-backs Christian Lealiifano and John Cooney, and flanker Jean Deysel will make their European debuts in Friday's match at the Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster sit second in Pro 14 Conference B after five wins from their opening six matches, while Premiership side Wasps are without a win since 10 September after a run of four successive defeats.

However, Ulster assistant coach Dwayne Peel expects a tough game against the English side, who welsome back captain Joe Launchbury, Nathan Hughes and Jimmy Gopperth from injury.

"They [Wasps] have a few boys back from injury so we're expecting a really stern challenge. They are a quality outfit, they've got pace and power so it's going to be a tough game for us," he said.

Peel says Ulster are not making any special plans to deal with Elliot Daly, who impressed on the wing for the British and Irish Lions during the summer tour of New Zealand. 

"Obviously he's a good player - he can run, he can pass and he's got a massive boot as well," Peel continued. 

"But we're not concentrating only on him because they've got some pacey guys in their backline as well. So it's a case of us believing and trusting in our system and hoping that will take care of them."

Wasps fly-half Danny Cipriani says his side should try and and quieten the raucous home crowd at Ravenhill by winning the early physical exchanges in Friday's match,

"Playing against Ulster will be a hostile crowd, probably more so than you find in the Premiership but we’ve got enough experience of playing in those games and scenarios," he told BT Sport.

"We have enough old heads in our squad to make sure that doesn't affect the level of performance and it's just about us imposing us on them.

"It's important that we give each game the respect it deserves, go there to fight and keep putting our philosophy onto the opposition."

Ulster: C Piutau; L Ludik, L Marshall, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; C Lealiifano, J Cooney; K McCall, R Herring, W Herbst; K Treadwell, I Henderson (capt); R Diack, S Reidy, J Deysel.

Replacements: J Andrew, C Black , R Ah You, M Rea, C Ross, P Marshall, P Nelson, T Bowe.

Wasps: W Le Roux; C Wade, E Daly, B Macken, J Bassett; J Gopperth, D Robson; M Mullan, T Cruse, J Cooper-Woolley; J Launchbury (capt), W Rowlands; J Haskell, T Young, N Hughes.

Replacements: A Johnson, S McIntytre, M Moore, J Gaskell, J Willis, J Simpson, R Miller, M Watson.

Ulster host Premiership side Wasps in their European Champions Cup Pool A opener at Kingspan Stadium on Friday, 13 October, a match which will be shown live on BT Sport 2 [kick off 7.45pm] on the eir Sport pack.

Photo Inpho/ Tommy Dickson

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