Ulster will be looking to maintain their unbeaten record in 2006 when they travel to Rodney Parade to face Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, September 9
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS v ULSTER, Rodney Parade, 5.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
**IrishRugby.ie will be supplying live score updates from Rodney Parade**
Team News: The Dragons have made four personnell changes and reshuffled their backline from last week's 24-23 win at Glasgow.
Colin Charvis makes his first start for the Welsh region and will captain the side. Ben Daly comes in at hooker for Steve Jones, who is rested, while Peter Sidoli has recovered from his foot injury to make the starting line-up.
Among the backs, Craig Warlow moves to full-back with Gareth Wyatt starting on the wing. Nathan Brew moves to inside centre while Mike Hercus makes his first competitive start for the Dragons at out-half. Academy member Alex Walker keeps his place at scrum half.
Ulster are unchanged from last weekend's 31-16 defeat of Llanelli Scarlets for their trip across the water to Wales.
That means new signings Mark Bartholomeusz, who scored the clinching try against the Scarlets, Tom Court and Tim Barker have retained their places on the right wing, at tighthead prop and in the second row respectively.
Ireland international Kieron Dawson remains on the bench despite an impressive performance in the second half against the Scarlets - Ferris, McMillan and Wilson seems a hard back row combination to knock however.
Dragons: Craig Warlow; Gareth Wyatt, Nathan Brew, Ceri Sweeney, Aled Brew; Mike Hercus, Alex Walker; Adam Black, Ben Daly, Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Peter Sidoli, Colin Charvis (capt), Jamie Ringer, Nic Fitisemanu.
Replacements: Kieran Crawford, Lee Harrison, Andrew Hall, Joe Bearman, Aled Thomas, Shane Stewart, Gareth Baber.
Ulster: Bryn Cunningham; Mark Bartholomeusz, Paul Steinmetz, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Maxwell; David Humphreys, Kieran Campbell; Justin Fitzpatrick, Paul Shields, Tom Court, Justin Harrison (capt), Tim Barker, Stephen Ferris, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Matt McCullough, Kieron Dawson, Paul Marshall, Kevin Maggs, Scott Young.
Referee: David Changleng (Scotland)
Touch Judges: Neil Ballard, Phil Harrhy (both Wales)
Coach Speak: Paul Turner (Dragons) - "It is a fantastic way to start the season for the players and supporters alike, kicking off our opening home game against the current champions Ulster. They showed last weekend how difficult they are to beat and proved last year that even though they may be 16-0 down, they can still come from behind to win the game.
"That match taught us a massive lesson and made us mentally stronger. The win up in Glasgow has given everyone in the squad a massive boost and the character of the side really shone through."
Mark McCall (Ulster) - "There is a lot more to come (from us) in both attack and defence, but the way we were able to turn around the game against Llanelli was a big bonus.
"We will be going into the Dragons' den as it were, against a team who have a very impressive home record down the years. We did win there last year when we came from behind, but they defeated both Leinster and Munster last season. They will also be full of confidence after winning their first game away from home last week.
"It will be very physical (on Frioday), and they will have a very partizan crowd who will be buoyed by the win against Glasgow last week - so we're expecting another difficult evening in the valleys."
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
September 2003 - Ulster 37 Dragons 18, Ravenhill
February 2004 - Dragons 27 Ulster 19, Rodney Parade
October 2004 - Ulster 21 Dragons 28, Ravenhill
February 2005 - Dragons 13 Ulster 11, Rodney Parade
September 2005 - Dragons 19 Ulster 22, Rodney Parade
March 2006 - Ulster 24 Dragons 17, Ravenhill
- Newport Gwent Dragons staged the equal best comeback in the history of the league at Hughenden last Friday, overturning a 20-point deficit to win 24-23
- The Dragons have not lost to an Irish team in the league at Rodney Parade since Ulster were the visitors on September 24 last year
- Reigning league champions Ulster got themselves off to a perfect start in defence of their title with a 31-16 victory over the Scarlets at Ravenhill. The northerners are still unbeaten in the league in 2006
- Ulster did the league 'double' over the Dragons last season, scoring three tries in each game. Flanker Neil Best, who is absent this time around due to Ireland squad commitments, touched down twice in last September's 22-19 win for Ulster at Rodney Parade
- In the battle of the out-halves, Craig Warlow (Dragons) and Ulster's David Humphreys have scored in four of the sides' six meetings in the league. Warlow has bagged 31 points - five conversions, five penalties and two drop goals - while Humphreys's total against the Dragons stands at 45 points - one try, five conversions, nine penalties and a drop goal