10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Young Ulster back row Stephen Ferris cannot wait for the start of the new season, especially after working his way back from a niggling ankle injury.
The Dungannon clubman missed out on playing at June's IRB Under-21 World Cup, and also missed out on a possible place in the Ireland 'A' squad for the Churchill Cup, due to an ankle operation.
Ferris underwent surgery to clean up some pieces of floating bone in his ankle that troubled him towards the end of Ulster's victorious Celtic League run.
The 21-year-old was forced to rest up for four weeks, with his leg in plaster for two, but has been been back running for six weeks now and he confirmed his return at number eight in Ulster's friendly win over Rotherham on Friday.
"It was frustrating to sit out the tours but I am young and it was important to sort out my ankle," he told the Belfast Telegraph of his rehab.
"I didn't want it still to trouble me in the seasons ahead and it was a good time to get it sorted out so that I could get fit again in time for the start of the new season.
"It was a tough season for me last year...I started mosts of the games in the title run-in. It was thoroughly enjoyable but the body needed a rest."
Now on a full-time contract with the province, Ferris is hoping to use his 6ft 4in-17st 2lbs frame to good effect when the Magners League kicks off next weekend.
Although admittedly only "80% fit" at present, Ferris could still have a big say when Ulster start at home to Llanelli Scarlets on Saturday.
He added: "I'm itching to get back into it again against Llanelli on Saturday. It has felt like a long time since the Ospreys game and it was great to get a good, hard game against a physical side like Rotherham.
"The days when you are out on the pitch doing fitness for a couple of hours and doing weights is paying off just for that first game."