12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Former Wallaby lock Justin Harrison will captain Ulster, in the enforced absence of Simon Best, for Friday's Celtic League clash with champions the Ospreys at Ravenhill.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, November 4
Ulster v The Ospreys, Ravenhill, 7.10pm (live Setanta Sports)
The 31-year-old Harrison has been ever present in the Ulster side - starting all six Celtic League games as well as the province's Heineken Cup outings against Treviso and Biarritz - since joining from the NSW Waratahs in the summer.
Due to Ireland call-ups, coach Mark McCall has been forced to make a number of changes - eight in all - to the side that lost 33-19 in Biarritz last weekend due to Ireland squad training. Prop and skipper Best is one of eight Ulstermen - David Humphreys, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe, Kieran Campbell, Rory Best, Matt McCullough and Neil Best are the others - currently in Dublin on duty with Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland squad.
Kiwi centre Paul Steinmetz makes his first start since breaking his jaw, coming in for Trimble. Ireland Sevens international Andrew Maxwell takes Bowe's place on the left wing and Paddy Wallace and Isaac Boss, having shaken off the affects of the calf strain he sustained against treviso, are the half-backs.
Hooker Nigel Brady and tighthead prop Bryan Young are included in the front row, while the other changes see Dungannon youngster Ryan Caldwell partnering Harrison in the second row and Campbell Feather replacing top try-scorer Neil Best as blindside flanker.
Ulster are unbeaten at Ravenhill in eleven outings.
Friday's opponents the Ospreys, who sit fourth from bottom after a poor start, have yet to name their starting line-up having been hit with seven call-ups to the Wales squad. Gavin Henson (groin), Ryan Jones (chipped collarbone) and Stefan Terblanche (thigh) are also out injured.
Ospreys coach Lyn Jones has talked Ulster up, saying: "Last year proved to be a successful season for us against Ulster, with victories at both St Helens and Ravenhill and I have no doubt they will be going 100% to make amends following the good form we showed against them. Ulster had a tough season last year, but to date they are one of the form teams in the Celtic League and they have shown up well in the early rounds of the Heineken Cup."
The Ospreys have lost all of their last six matches away from home, but Ulster's record against the Welsh region is decidedly poor - the 31-19 win at Ravenhil in February 2004 has been the province's only win in five clashes with the Ospreys.
Previous Meetings: 03/04: Ospreys 41 Ulster 30, Ulster 31 Ospreys 19; 04/05: Ulster 24 Ospreys 37, Ospreys 22 Ulster 21; CC QF: Ospreys 23 Ulster 15
ULSTER: 2005/06 CL Form: WWWWLWW (Includes Free Weekend); Top Scorers: Points: David Humphreys 69; Tries: Neil Best 4
OSPREYS: 2005/06 CL Form: WLWLLW;Top Scorers: Points: Matthew Jones 31; Tries: Andrew Bishop 2
ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; James Topping, Kevin Maggs, Paul Steinmetz, Andrew Maxwell; Paddy Wallace, Isaac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Justin Harrison (capt), Ryan Caldwell, Campbell Feather, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Declan Fitzpatrick, Rodd Moore, Henry Head, Stephen Ferris, Reece Spee, Adam Larkin, Jonny Bell.
Backs (10): Adrian Cashmore, Johnny Vaughton, Richard Mustoe, Andrew Bishop, Leigh Davies, Aled Brew, Matthew Jones, Shaun Connor, Richard Rees, Jason Spice.
Forwards (12): Cai Griffiths, Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Barry Williams (capt), Andrew Millward, Ian Evans, Andrew Newman, Lyndon Bateman, Richard Pugh, Lee Beach, Steve Tandy, James Bater.
Referee: Iain Heard (Scotland)