Luke Marshall and Darren Cave maintain their partnership in midfield. Paddy Jackson has been released by the Ireland management and starts at out-half, with Ruan Pienaar moving back to his more familiar position of scrum half.
Up front Callum Black starts at loosehead prop with Tom Court named on the bench. Rob Herring continues at hooker with Ricky Lutton keeping his place at tighthead.
Johann Muller captains Ulster from the second row where he is joined by Iain Henderson, who has also been released from international duty.
Robbie Diack, a try scorer against Benetton Treviso, Sean Doyle and Roger Wilson all start in an unchanged back row.
Stuart McCloskey, a 21-year-old centre who is a member of the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy, is named as a replacement and will make his first senior appearance for Ulster if called upon.
Friday's game is the 11th match to be sold out at Ravenhill this season. There will be live television coverage on both BBC 2 Northern Ireland and RTÉ Two.
ULSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Jared Payne; Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Rory Scholes; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton, Johann Muller (capt), Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Niall Annett, Tom Court, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, David McIlwaine.