Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe has handed competitive debuts to Sean Doyle, Nick Williams, Rob Herring and Michael Heaney for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 encounter with Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.05pm).
Sean Doyle and Nick Williams will be joined in the back row by Robbie Diack, while Johann Muller continues as skipper in the engine room alongside Lewis Stevenson.
In the front row, Irish-qualified South African hooker Rob Herring links up with props Callum Black and John Afoa. Should Ireland international Tom Court come off the bench at any stage during the game it will mark the prop’s 100th appearance for the province.
Behind the scrum, Michael Heaney will start at scrum half where he forms a youthful half-back partnership with his former Methodist College school-mate Paddy Jackson. Luke Marshall and Chris Farrell will also combine in a new centre partnership.
Right winger Michael Allen will make only his second ever appearance for the province, while Craig Gilroy – the most-capped player in the selected Ulster back-line with 43 caps – will start on the opposite wing.
The back-three is completed by full-back Jared Payne who will play his first RaboDirect PRO12 game since he ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Cardiff Blues just over 11 months ago.
If Ulster will field a relatively inexperienced starting line-up, the same cannot be said of the eight replacements, who have over 500 caps between them. Included on the bench are Ireland squad members Court, Declan Fitzpatrick, Paul Marshall and Darren Cave.
Nigel Brady, Neil McComb and Mike McComish are the other forward replacements. If Niall O’Connor comes off the bench it will be the out-half’s first appearance for Ulster in 20 months after returning from a spell with Connacht.
Mark Anscombe, taking charge of his first competitive game with Ulster, is expecting a tough challenge from the travelling Scots.
“They have named a strong side as we expected and they will provide a formidable test. They have brought a few internationals into the starting line-up and have another couple on the bench,” he said.
“We have a strong bench too but we will see how the game pans out. Our internationals on the bench haven’t played much rugby or had much contact but if we need to use them we will.
“I’m really excited about this game, hopefully we can start the season off with a good win.”
Tickets are still available for Friday’s opening league match. They can be purchased by clicking here or by calling the ticket office on 02890493222 (option 2).
ULSTER (v Glasgow Warriors): Jared Payne; Michael Allen, Chris Farrell, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Michael Heaney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Tom Court, Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Darren Cave.