Lying second in Conference A, Ulster put their unbeaten start to the new Guinness PRO14 season on the line when they welcome the resurgent Dragons to the Kingspan Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
Head coach Dan McFarland has made six changes to the side that defeated the Ospreys 24-12 in Swansea a fortnight ago. Australian Sam Carter will lead the province from the second row.
The back-line sees just one change and one positional switch. Tricky runner Rob Lyttle will start at full-back, flanked by Louis Ludik and Matt Faddes on the wings.
Impressive youngsters James Hume and Stewart Moore are retained in midfield after catching the eye again in round two. Ireland internationals Ian Madigan and John Cooney get the nod at half-back, with Madigan making his first Kingspan Stadium start.
Another player with international experience, prop Martin Moore, continues at tighthead and is joined in the front row by John Andrew and Eric O’Sullivan. The second row axis of Carter and Alan O’Connor will provide strong leadership.
The Ulstermen will field an all-international back row as Sean Reidy and Jordi Murphy return to the flanker berths, combining with South African star Marcell Coetzee who turned in a man-of-the-match display last time out at the Liberty Stadium.
Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney will provide forward cover off the bench, and David Shanahan, Bill Johnston and Michael Lowry are the back-line options.
Ulster assistant coach Dwayne Peel commented: “The Dragons have recruited well and they have some quality players. We’ve studied them hard and it’ll be a good challenge for us.
“When you see the likes of (former Wales and Lions centre) Jamie Roberts, (Nick) Tompkins and Jonah Holmes, they’ve got a lot of experience and quality in the back-line.
“The players had some time off away from rugby and we’ve trained well since then. We’re ready to hit the ground running and we know we have a big block of games coming up.
“With no match last week we had a short time to take a step back, just getting a couple of days away. The players have come back in good spirits. The boys have been going out with a mentality to express themselves and are enjoying their rugby and I think that’s important.”
ULSTER (v Dragons): Rob Lyttle; Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Louis Ludik; Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Martin Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (capt), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Michael Lowry.