Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has named injury doubt Stephen Ferris in his starting line-up for the massive Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Munster at Thomond Park on Easter Sunday (kick-off 1.45pm).
The inclusion of Stephen Ferris, who missed last year’s quarter-final defeat to Northampton Saints, will come as a major boost to Ulster.
The Ireland flanker picked up an ankle injury against Aironi in last weekend’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash, but has received extensive treatment throughout the week to be passed fit.
Ulster have made just one change to the starting team that registered a 45-7 victory over the Italians at Ravenhill last Friday.
Dan Tuohy returns to partner captain Johann Muller in the second row, with Lewis Stevenson dropping back to the replacements bench.
Ireland internationals Tom Court and Rory Best form the front row with All Black John Afoa, while Chris Henry and Pedrie Wannenburg join Ferris in the back row once more.
The province’s back-line has a settled look about it with Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys continuing at half back.
Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave have been looking dangerous in midfield and will thrive on the opportunity of quick ball on Sunday. Craig Gilroy adds youth to an experienced back-three alongside Stefan Terblanche and Andew Trimble.
The only other change to the matchday squad sees centre Nevin Spence included among the replacements at the expense of Ian Whitten.
Commenting on the inclusion of Ferris, Brian McLaughlin said: “Stevie will play subject to fitness. At this stage we are hopeful that he will be available and a lot of credit should go to our medical team and physios for getting him into this position.
“He brings a great deal to this team and gives the players around him a massive lift. That is what we need going into a game like this.”
The Ulster boss is expecting fireworks from the very first whistle, adding: “It will be an unbelievably physical battle. They will be smarting from their defeat to Leinster last weekend and they will want to make up for that by beating us on Sunday.
“We are as close to full strength as possible so it wasn’t an easy job picking the squad. We only have 23 slots and there are a few disappointed boys. Everyone has been working hard over the past few months and some are unlucky to miss out.”
Munster have progressed to the last-eight having won six games from six in their pool. The two-time Heineken Cup winners have lost just twice at Thomond Park in the history of the competition, to Cardiff back in 1998 and Leicester Tigers in 2007.
The winners of Sunday’s tie will earn a home semi-final against either Edinburgh or Toulouse, who face each other on Saturday.
ULSTER (v Munster): Stefan Terblanche; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Nevin Spence, Adam D’Arcy.