Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named a 26-man squad to face Edinburgh in Sunday’s Magners League match at Murrayfield (kick-off 4.05pm).
With Connacht drawing level on 26 points with Ulster in the race to reach the Heineken Cup, Brian McLaughlin’s men really need to deliver a result at the home of Scottish rugby.
McLaughlin looks set to be able to call on Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace and Rory Best, with the Ireland international trio recovering well from recent injuries.
Flanker Ferris was a late withdrawal from the Ulster team that lost away in Glasgow last Friday, but his rib injury is healing well.
Wallace (thigh) and Best (calf) are on course to feature too against Edinburgh, while South African back rower Robbie Diack, who was forced off at half-time in Glasgow with a bruised hand, is expected to be given the all-clear.
Ulster are preparing for two big games this weekend, with the Ravens first up against Munster in Saturday’s British & Irish Cup semi-final at Thomond Park.
The province’s strength in depth will be tested, and with that in mind, front rowers Declan Fitzpatrick and Nigel Brady and talented young backs Jonny Shiels and Tommy Seymour have dropped out of the senior squad.
Second row Neil McComb has been called into the senior set-up for the Edinburgh game. Justin Fitzpatrick, Matt McCullough, Cillian Willis, Mark McCrea, Adam Macklin, Bryn Cunningham and Timoci Nagusa, who are all currently injured, were not considered.
McLaughlin, who will confirm his team and replacements on Friday afternoon, said: “The seniors have been preparing well for this vital game against Edinburgh on Sunday.
“Our main problem has been that we have not been able to hold on for the victory in games we should have won, so we have focused on fitness levels and our set pieces.
“We are all very positive heading to face Edinburgh. We have played them quite a few times this season -the last time was at Ravenhill in the Hineken Cup, where we gained the victory. We will be going to Murrayfield with the belief that we can win.
“The last time we played at Murrayfield we had smashing support behind us, and hopefully the fans will turn out once again as their support means so much, especially away from home.”
ULSTER Squad (v Edinburgh) – Backs (12): Jamie Smith, Paul Marshall, Simon Danielli, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence, Ian Humphreys, Niall O’Connor, Isaac Boss, Willie Faloon, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace.
Forwards (14): Rory Best, Bryan Young, BJ Botha, Neil McComb, Andi Kyriacou, Ed O’Donoghue, Dan Tuohy, Ryan Caldwell, Chris Henry, Tom Court, Stephen Ferris, Robbie Diack, Thomas Anderson, David Pollock.