Ulster have been boosted by the inclusion of Ian Humphreys, Darren Cave and Jared Payne in their starting line-up for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Benetton Treviso at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.05pm).
The back-line trio have overcome recent injuries with Ian Humphreys (shoulder) replacing Paddy Jackson at out-half and Darren Cave (hamstring) taking over from Luke Marshall in the centre.
Cave is named at outside centre so Nevin Spence will move inside to wear the number 12 jersey, while full-back Jared Payne has shaken off a dead leg and will make only his third appearance for Ulster at the expense of Adam D’Arcy.
Head coach Brian McLaughlin has also made three personnel changes up front. Andi Kyriacou comes in for Nigel Brady at hooker after starting from the bench in last weekend’s defeat at the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Tim Barker gets a chance to impress in the second row alongside Dan Tuohy, with Lewis Stevenson named amongst the replacements.
The other change in the pack will see Mike McComish make his first competitive start for the province, replacing Willie Faloon at openside flanker. Young prop Kyle McCall could make his debut off the bench.
“To have the three guys back is fantastic. Ian will give us a lot of organisation and Darren is a great communicator and a great defender,” said McLaughlin.
“To have Jared back in there to add solidity at the back and a bit of spice in attack is very important for us as well.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve been very disappointed. Last season and early this season our young players have really done us proud but I think against the Ospreys and the Dragons it was maybe just a bridge too far.
“There is no doubt the young players are a talented bunch and the last few weeks has been a great learning experience for them.”
He feels the time is right to rotate a few players up front as well, adding: “Mike McComish has been training hard and he played very well for his club Ballymena last week and we feel he deserves a chance.
“There is nothing really between Lewis and Tim, they’re both great workhorses. Lewis has been excellent in the last few games but Tim did brilliantly for us last season so it’s a matter of rotation.
“We know the Italian teams are very physical. This season they’ve added a lot of attacking rugby to their game and they are playing a nice brand and scoring tries.
“we will have to be at our best there’s no doubt about that. But we’re delighted to be back in front of our home fans at Ravenhill and we’re hopeful that we can return to winning ways.”
Ulster Rugby have a number of great value family and student ticket packages available for Friday’s game. Details can be found online at www.ulsterrugby.com or by calling the Ravenhill Ticket Office on tel: 02890493222 (option 2).
Ulster are also reminding supporters that Season Ticket zoning and scanning will be in operation at the ground and supporters should check their tickets to ensure that are entering through the correct gate. More details are available here.
ULSTER (v Benetton Treviso): Jared Payne; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Declan Fitzpatrick, Andi Kyriacou, Jerry Cronin, Tim Barker, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Mike McComish, Chris Henry (capt).
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Kyle McCall, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Ian Porter, Paddy Jackson, Adam D’Arcy.