Ulster have named a 28-man provisional squad ahead of the visit of the Newport Gwent Dragons to Ravenhill on Friday night (kick-off 7.05pm).
Brian McLaughlin’s side return to action in the RaboDirect PRO12 after a five-week break. They will be without South African back rower Pedrie Wannenburg who has been ruled out with a foot injury, while Darren Cave and Declan Fitzpatrick remain sidelined.
Paddy Wallace, Chris Henry and Dan Tuohy have been retained in the Ireland RBS 6 Nations squad, along with Rory Best, Andrew Trimble, Tom Court and Stephen Ferris who all featured in the loss to Wales last Sunday. Winger Simon Danielli continues his involvement with the Scotland squad.
Academy players Michael Allen, Chris Cochrane, Ali Birch and Conor Gaston have all been named in Ulster’s extended squad and will compete for the place in the matchday 23.
Ulster have won three of their last four matches in the RaboDirect PRO12. Indeed, their only defeat at Ravenhill in their last 16 outings was a 23-12 loss to Benetton Treviso in October.
The Ulstermen have not lost at home to a Welsh region since the Dragons themselves were the visitors in April 2010.
The Dragons are in the midst of their worst ever away run in the competition, with ten straight losses on the road.
The men of Gwent won 22-9 when the two sides met at Rodney Parade in round five but have not achieved a season’s double over the Ulstermen since the 2008/09 season.
The Dragons’ only win in Ireland since 2004 was a 16-14 triumph over Ulster at Ravenhill back in September 2008.
ULSTER Squad (v Newport Gwent Dragons) – Backs (13): Paul Marshall, Ruan Pienaar, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Luke Marshall, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence, Michael Allen, Stefan Terblanche, Craig Gilroy, Conor Gaston, Chris Cochrane, Adam D’Arcy.
Forwards (15): Callum Black, Adam Macklin, John Afoa, Jerry Cronin, Paddy McAllister, Andi Kyriacou, Nigel Brady, Lewis Stevenson, Johann Muller (capt), Tim Barker, Neil McComb, Willie Faloon, Ali Birch, Mike McComish, Robbie Diack.