18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
A calf injury to Kieran Campbell has meant Ulster coach Mark McCall has had to make one change to his side for tonight's Heineken Cup Pool 4 opener against Benetton Treviso.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 4: Friday, October 21
Ulster v Benetton Treviso, Ravenhill, 7.30pm (Sky Sports)
Scrum half Campbell picked up the knock in last Saturday's 27-0 Celtic League win over the Borders, thus Irish-qualified Kiwi Issac Boss comes in for his Heineken Cup debut.
Reece Spee has been drafted in as cover for the pivot position.
There are three changes on the replacements bench - Ulster 'A' captain Nigel Brady comes in as replacement hooker to cover Paul Shields, who picked up a knee injury in Scotland last weekend. Campbell Feather, who lined out for Dungannon in the AIB League last week, is included in place of Stephen Ferris, while centre Paul Steinmetz, who has been suffering from a fractured jaw, is included in the matchday 22 following a satisfactory medical review last week.
In a late switch, Dungannon tyro Ryan Caldwell will deputise for the injured Rowan Frost on the bench.
Boss, who came on to score a try in the second half against the Borders last week, cannot wait to make his European bow.
"I am looking forward to it," said the former New Zealand Under-19 international. "Obviously I feel sorry for Kieran, he has been playing well for quite a few weeks and hopefully he will be back into straight away.
"His injury has given me an opportunity probably earlier than I expected so I am just hoping to do the best that I can.
"The guys have made it easy for me over the last couple of weeks to settle in and have made me feel welcome."
Ulster have played tonight's opponents Treviso, who are the current Super 10 leaders and are coming off the back of a 55-7 hammering of Amatori Catania, twice previously in European competition.
Having been drawn in Pool 2 in the 2001/02 season, Alan Solomons' Ulster side held off Treviso for a 33-28 win at the Stadio Comunale di Monigio as captain Andy Ward, winger James Topping and fly half David Humphreys scored the visitors' tries. Former Ulster hero Simon Mason kicked seven penalties and a conversion for Treviso.
The second match at Ravenhill saw Ulster cruise to a 59-3 win over the Italians - Tyrone Howe (2), Neil Doak (2), Gary Longwell, Ryan Constable and Adam Larkin all touched down for the men in white, who also bagged a penalty try.
For tonight's game, Treviso coach Craig Green has included eight Italian internationals in his side. South African signing Michael Smith also comes in at fly half for his first Heineken Cup debut, while legendary Italian scrum half Alessandro Troncon captains the side.
ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Kevin Maggs, James Topping; David Humphreys, Issac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, Simon Best (Capt), Justin Harrison, Matt McCullough, Neil Best, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Ryan Caldwell, Campbell Feather, Reece Spee, Paddy Wallace, Paul Steinmetz.
BENETTON TREVISO: Brendan Williams; Denis Dallan, Stuart Legg, Matteo Barbini, Massimiliano Perzini; Michael Smith, Alessandro Troncon (Capt); Augusto Allori, Alvaro Tejeda, Salvatore Costanzo, Enrico Pavanello, Marco Wentzel, Scott Palmer, Silvio Orlando, Dion Kingi.
Replacements: Hernan Mazino, Fabio Ongaro, Antonion Pavanello, Salvatore Garozzo, Willem Adrian Wium, Gabriel Pizarro, Simon Picone.
Referee: Jean Matheu (France)