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.
South African scrum half Ruan Pienaar is also back from international duty, and there is a welcome return for prop Declan Fitzpatrick who has been sidelined since injurying his calf in the early part of the season.
Young winger Craig Gilroy, who scored four tries in the recent wins over Cardiff and Benetton Treviso, has been omitted as Ulster build towards their back-to-back Heineken Cup games against Bath. The 19-year-old is not eligible for the upcoming Pool 4 clashes.
The injured Johann Muller and Robbie Diack are absent from the panel, along with Ulster's regular captain Rory Best, who fractured his cheekbone against New Zealand and is facing a six-week lay-off.
On the plus side, stand-in skipper Chris Henry is in contention to feature against the Dragons despite suffering a facial injury during the 19-9 victory in Treviso.
Head coach Brian McLaughlin will confirm the team and replacements to face the Dragons on Thursday afternoon.
Despite the current adverse weather conditions, the Ravenhill pitch is looking good for Friday's match - the squad trained on it this morning (Tuesday) and the frost covers have been put down this afternoon.
Ulster Rugby have made an appeal to supporters to be mindful of local residents and avoid parking in the immediate vicinity of the ground.
The PSNI have indicated that if required, they will close the two main roads leading to the ground - Onslow Parade and Mount Merrion Avenue - at peak times of traffic flow pre-and-post match and fans travelling to the match by car and intending to park in the vicinity of the ground are advised of that.
Complimentary Park 'n' Ride facilities are available at Pirrie Park, located off Ardenlee Avenue/Ravenhill Road, as well as along the Montgomery Road on the Cregagh side of the ground where there is ample parking.
Both of these areas are just a short distance from Ravenhill and supporters can either walk or make use of the complimentary buses that run from the parking areas to the gates of the ground from an hour-and-a-half before kick-off to an hour-and-a-half after the final whistle. For more information, please ring the Ticket Office on 02890493222.
ULSTER Squad (v Newport Gwent Dragons) - Backs (13): Adam D'Arcy, David McIlwaine, Jamie Smith, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Simon Danielli, Paddy Wallace, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten, Ian Humphreys, Niall O'Connor, Paul Marshall, Ruan Pienaar.
Forwards (14): Tom Court, Declan Fitzpatrick, Paddy McAllister, Bryan Young, BJ Botha, Nigel Brady, Andi Kyriacou, Tim Barker, Dan Tuohy, Neil McComb, Pedrie Wannenburg, Willie Faloon, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry.