Six of Ulster’s Rugby World Cup players have gone straight into the starting line-up to face Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 at the Parc y Scarlets on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Head coach Brian McLaughlin has made a total of seven personnel changes and two positional switches. Johann Muller returns to captain the side from the second row where he resumes his partnership with Dan Tuohy.
Ireland prop Tom Court will join Andi Kyriacou and Declan Fitzpatrick in the front row. The back row remains unchanged from the last match against Benetton Treviso, with Pedrie Wannenburg and Mike McComish on the flanks and Chris Henry stationed at number 8.
Paul Marshall makes way for returning Springbok Ruan Pienaar at scrum half, with Ian Humphreys starting in the number 10 jersey and Paddy Wallace and Nevin Spence occupying the centre positions.
Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy have been named on the wings and Scotland international Simon Danielli returns from World Cup duty at full-back.
McLaughlin is confident the returning players will benefit the team, stating; “We’ve had a very positive week with Johann at the helm as captain and we’re looking to put in a positive performance on Saturday.
“With Johann, Andrew, Simon, Paddy, Tom and Ruan back in, we are starting to take a bit more shape. The guys who have played up until now have done a great job and they will get plenty of opportunities as the season progresses, with so many games on the horizon.
“We had to make a few tough decisions in terms of selection. Leaving Darren Cave out of the side was very difficult considering the form he was in.
“Paddy (Wallace) and Nevin (Spence) struck up a good relationship last season and it’s a tried and tested combination. We know with Darren on the bench, it will give us a bit of quality there and it gives us great options.
“We have a long run of games now and it’s important that we get off on the right foot against the Scarlets. We will be looking for a good performance as well as a good result.”
Rory Best and Stephen Ferris are being rested after Ireland’s World Cup campaign, while Jared Payne (Achilles), Luke Marshall (jaw) and Jerry Cronin (neck) are currently sidelined by injuries.
ULSTER (v Scarlets): Simon Danielli; Andrew Trimble, Nevin Spence, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Andi Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Mike McComish, Chris Henry.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Adam D’Arcy.