Ulster name strong team for Toulouse clash

Robert Baloucoune scored three tries during a five-star performance in France last week

Hat-trick hero Robert Baloucoune will start as Ulster seek to maintain their advantage against a star-studded Toulouse team at the Kingspan this weekend.

Captained by Iain Henderson, Ulster have chosen a close to full strength side as they bring a six-point lead into Saturday's second leg in Belfast.

Ulster held on for a four-try victory against Toulouse in France last weekend. The thrilling match saw Les rogues et noir go down to 14 after a red card for Juan Cruz Mallia.

The Ulstermen pressed on to become the second team in over a decade to beat Toulouse at home in the champions cup.

Duane Vermeulen packs down at number eight as in-form prop Andrew Warick comes into the front row of a powerful Ulster pack.

Starting alongside Baloucoune in the back three is fellow Ireland star Mike Lowry.

The tried and tested midfield of James Hume and Stuart McCloskey sit behind the first-choice halfbacks John Cooney and Billy Burns.

Toulouse look as strong as you would expect from the French and European champions, albeit with a few notable absences.

The French side remain without captain and Grand-slam winning hooker Julian Marchand, and have lost Cyril Baille to injury.

Their front row is still one of the strongest in the club game however, as hooker Peato Mauvaka will scrum next to Rodrigue Neti and 50-cap All Black Charlie Faumuina.

Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack are the all-star halfbacks, alongside marksman Thomas Ramos.

There's a fraternal feeling to the Australian second row of Richie and Rory Arnold. Fellow Aussie Emmanuel Meafou drops to the bench despite his impressive display last weekend.

Toulouse have looked less invincible this season, losing to Wasps in the group stages of the Champions Cup and going on a rotten run of form in the Top 14 from the turn of year, picking up just a couple of wins since January.

The team haven't fully replaced world-cup-winning Springbok Cheslin Kolbe or All-Black legend Jerome Kaino, who left in the offseason.

Despite this, and Ulster's slender aggregate lead, you'd have to be a fool to write off Toulouse.

They have some of the world's best players and play a thrilling brand of attacking rugby.

Ulster will have to display all the physical brutality and tactical nous they showed last weekend if they are to overcome the holders of the Champions cup this Saturday.