Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has finalised his team and replacements for the province’s first Magners League derby match of the season away to Connacht on Friday (kick-off 8pm).
Brian McLaughlin has made three changes to the pack which started last weekend’s loss to Edinburgh at Ravenhill.
Grand Slam winner Tom Court replaces Bryan Young as loosehead prop, Dan Tuohy returns from injury in the second row, pushing Neil McComb down the bench, while Robbie Diack is back in the number 8 jersey.
Chris Henry, who has taken on the role of stand-in captain in recent weeks, was due to start the game on the bench but due to an injury sustained today, Stephen Ferris has pulled out of the squad as a precaution.
Henry will take Ferris’ place on the blindside of the scrum, with Thomas Anderson proving the back row cover on the bench.
In the backs, the only change is the return of Grand Slam winner Paddy Wallace, who comes in for Ian Whitten in midfield and will captain the side.
Looking forward to his first start of the season, Wallace said: “We know the task ahead of us in Galway. Connacht are a very competitive side, particularly at the start of the season, and they showed just how hard they can be to defeat at the Sportsground with that win over Cardiff Blues last weekend.
“They will have the bit between their teeth after that victory and they are motivated further by trying to get into the Heineken Cup for the first time.
“We stand in their way. Connacht look at us as their nearest targets in achieving that from all the provinces involved, so they will really be gunning for us on Friday night.
“We are well aware of that, well aware of their motivation and we know we need to put in another big performance to keep the winning run we have had against them.”
Ulster Rugby’s Operations Director David Humphreys commented: “We have been saying all along that it’s about winning, particularly at Ravenhill. That’s where we need to improve.
“The Magners League is very competitive and you don’t get too many chances, which is why you have to take those that do come your way, be they opportunities to score tries, kick penalties or conversions or drop goals. You have to put those away.
“The players know that, of course. They’re very disappointed with the result last weekend.
“They played well and they know they should have won. That’s what makes that defeat harder to take.
“But the bottom line is that when you play well for lengthy periods, there has to be something to show for it.”
ULSTER (v Connacht): Clinton Schifcofske; Timoci Nagusa, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace (capt), Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Tom Court, Andy Kyriacou, BJ Botha, Dan Tuohy, Ed O’Donoghue, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb, Thomas Anderson, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Andrew Trimble.