The Ospreys may have won on their last two visits to Ravenhill, but Ulster have not been beaten in the league at the Belfast ground since last December - a stretch of seven matches.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 22
ULSTER v OSPREYS, Ravenhill, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports)
**IrishRugby.ie will be running a live match tracker from Ravenhill**
Team News: Ulster coach Mark McCall has named his side for the visit of 2004/05 champions the Ospreys.
The only change to the starting line-up from last week's 20-15 defeat to Edinburgh sees the return of Justin Harrison from a calf injury. The former Wallaby will captain the province, with Matt McCullough moving to the bench.
Amongst the replacements there are three changes - McCullough replaces Lewis Stevenson as second row cover, Declan Fitzpatrick comes in for Tom Court, and Scott Young makes way for Tommy Bowe, who has been released from the Irish squad's pre-season conditioning programme.
The Ospreys will show twelve changes in personnel when they run out at Ravenhill. With a number of players injured including hookers Huw Bennett and Richard Hibbard and back rows Andy Lloyd and Filo Tiatia, but with some of his Welsh stars itching for game time, coach Lyn Jones has made alterations to the side that beat the Border Reivers last weekend.
There are five changes in the back line with Nikki Walker, Shane Williams, Gavin Henson, Sonny Parker and Justin Marshall all returning.
Flanker Lee Beach is the only survivor in the pack.
Ulster: Bryn Cunningham; Mark Bartholomeusz, Paul Steinmetz, Paddy Wallace, Alan Maxwell; David Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, Bryan Young, Justin Harrison (capt), Tim Barker, Stephen Ferris, Kieron Dawson, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Paul Shields, Declan Fitzpatrick, Matt McCullough, Neil McMillan, Kieran Campbell, Kevin Maggs, Tommy Bowe.
Ospreys: Stefan Terblanche; Nikki Walker, Sonny Parker, Gavin Henson, Shane Williams; James Hook, Justin Marshall; Duncan Jones (capt), Barry Williams, Adam Jones, Brent Cockbain, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Lee Beach, Ryan Jones.
Replacements: Ed Shevington, Paul James, Alun Wyn Jones, Richard Pugh, Martin Roberts, Andrew Bishop, Lee Byrne.
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Touch Judges: Ger English, Dermot Moloney (both Ireland)
Coach Speak: Mark McCall (Ulster) - "The Ospreys have a heck of a squad. They were able to win two games in three days last week, and given that was with almost two different starting fifteens, it is pretty impressive going.
"It tells you something about the strength of their squad. On paper, they probably are one of the strongest squads in the league, and we will have to be at our best to beat them at Ravenhill. They are a top-line outfit and have experienced internationals throughout their side.
"One of those is Justin Marshall who will pull the strings at half-back, and their exciting back line will have to be watched. They are undoubtedly a good team, but then so are we."
Lyn Jones (Ospreys) - "We always look forward to the challenge at Ravenhill as it is consistently the best venue to play Magners League rugby.
"Ulster Rugby offer everyone an intense match on their home turf, and with their side vocally backed up by 10,000 vociferous supporters, it is an inspiring environment and no place for the weak at heart. It will be a refreshing change to turn up for a game of rugby without being viewed as favourites.
"Each game we have played so far has been a tight affair, showing the improvement in our league since its creation. We expect no different on Friday night against the reigning champions in Belfast."
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
September 2003 - Ospreys 41 Ulster 30, The Gnoll
February 2004 - Ulster 31 Ospreys 19, Ravenhill
September 2004 - Ulster 24 Ospreys 37, Ravenhill
January 2005 - Ospreys 22 Ulster 21, St. Helen's
November 2005 - Ulster 12 Ospreys 20, Ravenhill
May 2006 - Ospreys 17 Connacht 19, Liberty Stadium
- Ulster's all-time league record 12-match unbeaten run came to a halt at Murrayfield last Friday when Edinburgh claimed a 20-15 victory. However, Mark McCall's charges have won their last seven fixtures in the league at Ravenhill - a run which began after their 24-19 loss to Leinster on December 26 last year
- The Ospreys have started the new season well, winning back-to-back matches against the Blues and the Borders, but have won just one of their last five away matches - against Connacht last May
- Ulster have won only two of their seven previous encounters - both league and cup - with the Ospreys, while the Welsh region have failed to win at Ravenhill on their last two visits
- In terms of Magners League table positionings, Friday's clash will see third entertaining second. Ulster boast the league's current top scorer in their ranks - out-half David Humphreys has tallied up 48 points ( 1 try, 5 conversions and 11 penalties) in three appearances. The Ospreys' former Wales Under-21 international James Hook has bagged 29 points (4 conversions and 7 penalties) for fifth place in the scoring ranks
- Hook, along with Glasgow's Dan Parks, boasts the best kicking success rate in the league (84.62%). He has landed 11 of his last 13 shots at goal. Humphreys is back in fourth with a 16/21 return and a success rate of 76.19%
- Ulster full-back Bryn Cunningham has scored two tries in his first three appearances of the new Magners League campaign. Cunningham also touched down in September 2004 when the Ospreys flew north to pick up a 37-24 win. Wales centre Gavin Henson has an excellent scoring record against Ulster - he has managed to score in all five of his appearances against the province. His points total v Ulster stands at 63 (3 tries, 9 conversions, 9 penalties and 1 drop goal)