John Afoa and Chris Henry are back in the Ulster starting line-up for Saturday’s Heineken Cup final showdown with Leinster at Twickenham (kick-off 5pm).
John Afoa was suspended for four matches for a dangerous tackle on Munster’s Felix Jones during Ulster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final win, while Chris Henry missed the semi-final against Edinburgh due to an ankle injury.
Both forwards are now back in the starting pack with Declan Fitzpatrick and Willie Faloon dropping to the replacements bench. They are the only two changes to the side that beat Edinburgh 22-19 at the Aviva Stadium.
Youngster Paddy Jackson, the current Ireland Under-20 captain, retains the out-half jersey with Ian Humphreys kept in reserve.
Previewing the all-Irish decider, experienced winger Andrew Trimble said: “Saturday means the world (to us). We’ve come this far and now we just want to finish it off. It means the world to everybody.
“I remember when we were coming out of the hotel on the way to the Aviva Stadium for the semi-final against Edinburgh, the support there was for us was unbelievable.
“I’ve had that many times with Ireland but when you get that with Ulster, the team you’ve played with and supported for so long and when you’ve got such an affiliation with all the supporters, it just means so much to you.
“To see the streets covered in white meant the world, and that’s the same for everybody at Ulster Rugby.
“I’ve always been an Ulster supporter and I’ve always followed them in the Heineken Cup. I’ve been at Ravenhill basically my whole life.
“I watched the Heineken Cup final win in 1999 and now I’ve been playing for Ulster for seven years. I’ve spent not just my entire career, but also my entire life, supporting Ulster Rugby.
“I went down to the ’99 final at Lansdowne Road. I was 15 so I don’t remember too much about it – we didn’t play too much rugby but it was one of those days where we squeezed out a result. The whole place was filled with white and it was a pretty special day.”
The Ireland international added: “There’s a massive amount riding on this game. There’s such a rivalry between the Irish provinces – you’ve seen it between Leinster and Munster for so long now. Fortunately over the last couple of years we’ve come on further and further and now we’re competing for silverware.
“The fact that we’re going after Leinster and Munster is something they should be flattered by. We’re motivated by jealousy, to be honest.
“We want to leapfrog Munster and leapfrog Leinster and be considered the number one Irish province. It’s not something that happens overnight.
“We’ve put an awful lot of hard work in over the last few years and there’s no event like the Heineken Cup final to make a claim for that status.
“We’ve got an opportunity this Saturday and we don’t want to let it slip. You just don’t know when the next Heineken Cup final appearance will be.”
ULSTER (v Leinster): Stefan Terblanche; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Adam D’Arcy.