Iain Henderson and Steven Kitshoff fit to start as Ulster eye up Challenge Cup semi-final spot

Uplifted Ulster aim to continue their mini-revival under new coach Richie Murphy with a trip to take on Clermont

Clermont Auvergne vs Ulster: Saturday April 13th, Stade Marcel Michelin, 12.30pm kick-off, live on TNT Sports

Uplifted but presumably not beguiled by the nature of their triumph in Montpellier, Ulster will still feel they have a decent shot at making the Challenge Cup’s last four when they rack up at Clermont.

With their hosts located in a far from comfortable spot in the Top 14 table – they sit just four points above one from bottom Montpellier – there is a certain optimism that Richie Murphy’s squad can profit from Clermont’s rather more pressing domestic issues plus the fact that Stade Marcel Michelin is no longer the fortress it once was.

Though their win over Montpellier was predicated on the home team having Paul Willemse red carded ahead of two virtually simultaneous yellow cards, ensuring that Ulster faced just 12 opponents for a period of the second half, there have nevertheless been signs of recovery in terms of what Ulster are bringing to their work under Murphy.

No bad thing considering all the tumult which has surrounded the northern province in recent times and their cause at Clermont will have been improved by the fitness of skipper Iain Henderson and that of the soon to depart Steven Kitshoff, both of whom start.


Harry Sheridan is one of two changes to the team which – albeit hit by several late withdrawals last week – took to the park at Montpellier, Michael Lowry the other alteration as he comes onto the wing.

With Ulster’s breakdown in need of urgent repair along with the need for extra physical presence, Sheridan will be expected to put himself about while a 6-2 bench split has both Dave Ewers and Marcus Rea poised to get to work when required.

Much will also hinge on how Ulster’s also at times vulnerable-looking set piece holds up. Should it be in ruder health then there is scope for Nathan Doak to further grow into his new role at outhalf and for the northern province to deploy Stuart McCloskey’s game-breaking talents, not to mention the attacking edge of a rejuvenated Robert Baloucoune.

This is an ideal opportunity for Ulster give it a go – they won last time they visited in December 2021 – while not being burdened by considerable expectation though, in fairness, Clermont will be not be found wanting in terms of chasing the win.

Clermont: A Newsome; B Delguy, L Darricarrere, J Heriteau, A Raka; A Belleau, B Jauneau (capt); G Beria, Y Beheregaray, R Slimani’ T Lanen, T Lavanini; K Tixeront, P Yato, P-G Sowakula.

Replacements: E Fourcade, D-B Biziwu, G Dzmanashvili, R Simmons, A Fischer, S Bezy, T Giral, J Jurand.

Ulster: S Moore; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, M Lowry; N Doak, J Cooney; S Kitshoff, R Herring, T O’Toole, A O’Connor, I Henderson (capt); H Sheridan, David McCann, N Timoney.

Replacements: T Stewart, A Warwick, S Wilson, C Izuchukwu, D Ewers, J Flannery, E McIlroy, Marcus Rea.

Referee: C Ridley (England)