Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named his starting line-up and replacements for Friday’s Magners League encounter with the Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.05pm).
Rory Best will make his return for Ulster this Friday, starting as hooker for the first time since last May.
A serious neck injury was set to rule Best out for the entire season, but he has made a remarkable recovery to feature as a replacement in Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations openers against Italy and France.
Best will take the place of Nigel Brady in the Ulster starting line-up, with the recent Ireland Wolfhounds debutant dropping to the replacements bench.
With flanker Stephen Ferris on Ireland duty, Thomas Anderson will don the number 6 jersey, joining David Pollock and team captain Chris Henry in a combative back row.
Ian Humphreys also returns to the Ulster side at out-half, after helping the Ireland Wolfhounds to a 34-19 win over Scotland ‘A’ at Ravenhill recently.
Commenting on Ulster’s Magners League meeting with the Dragons, head coach Brian McLaughlin said: “It’s a vital game for us on Friday night. The Dragons are sitting on the same points as us in the Magners League, so it’s a game that we must win.
“Whenever we played them at Rodney Parade, at the start of the season, they out muscled us, they beat us around the contact area, so we have a few scores to settle.
“I’m hopeful on Friday night, at Ravenhill, that we can come out and show how much we’ve improved, as the season has progressed.
“We’re looking forward to getting back out in front of a home crowd, after the fantastic support we received away against Bath. At Ravenhill this season, the fans have been great every match we’ve played, so we’re expecting the exact same this week.
“We’re really hoping they’ll get behind us, because it’s going to be a very difficult game. The Dragons are a tricky side to beat, and they’re coming here off the back of a great win over Saracens.
“They’ll arrive very confident, so we’ve got to make sure that come Friday we’re hitting the pitch running and play a good game of rugby,” he added.
Tickets are available for Friday’s game from: the Ravenhill Ticket Office (Monday-Thursday, 9am to 5pm; Friday, 9am to 3.30pm), the Ticket Hotline (tel: 028 90 493 222, Option 2 (Monday-Friday, 10am to 12pm), Ulster Rugby ticket outlets province-wide or to buy online – click here.
ULSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Jamie Smith; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Bryan Young, Rory Best, BJ Botha, Dan Tuohy, Ed O’Donoghue, Thomas Anderson, David Pollock, Chris Henry (capt).
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Caldwell, Robbie Diack, Ian Porter, Ian Whitten, Timoci Nagusa.