19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
Ulster's current winning mentality will see them expecting to beat three-time champions Toulouse in their Heineken Cup opener, says coach Mark McCall.
And why not? The northerners have built Ravenhill into a fortress in recent seasons, are the reigning Magners League champions and currently top the league table after five wins out of seven.
Over the past three seasons in the Heineken Cup, McCall's men have also registered wins over Gloucester, Saracens and Stade Francais at their Belfast home.
And while the province have not qualified for the competition's quarter-finals since lifting the European Cup back in 1998/99 (incidentally they beat Toulouse twice during that season), McCall is optimistic for a solid start to their 2006/07 run on Saturday (Ravenhill, kick-off 1.35pm).
He said: "Two or three years ago when Toulouse used to come to Ravenhill, we would go into the game hoping that there was an outside chance that they would have an off-day and we have a great day that we might sneak a result.
"But I think our attitude is totally different now. We will go into this game realising that they are one of the best teams in Europe, but expecting to win.
"That is certainly a sea change, certainly in terms of our mindset approaching this week and the Toulouse game.
"We expect to win the match and if we don't win the match we will win the next three. That's got to be our attitude. I think we are capable of winning every game in the pool but looking at the quality of the opposition we are probably capable of losing those games as well.
"The squad are going well. There is a good winning mentality about the squad. They are all ready and looking forward next week and it should be some occasion."
Importantly, with clashes with London Irish and Llanelli Scarlets also to come in Europe, Ulster's injury list is not as long as those of the other Irish provinces. Hamstring injuries have wingers Tommy Bowe and Mark Bartholomeusz currently sidelined and Kiwi centre Paul Steinmetz (shoulder) is nursing a knock, but all three are due back soon.
Prop and captain Simon Best is also nearing his return from the broken ankle injury which he sustained against Llanelli last May.
McCall relayed his plans for this week, adding: "We've got the video footage we need of Toulouse, we will do our homework and look at Saturday night's tape (of the win over Cardiff) and identify the areas where we weren't so good.
"We will look at Toulouse and see where we really need to work hard but we won't be upping the physicality of the training. The players are already putting it in on Friday and Saturday nights."