Will Addison will make his first start of the season when Ulster travel to Thomond Park to take on provincial rivals Munster in Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup tie (kick-off 8.15pm).
Addison, who has recently come back from a long-term injury absence, joins Stuart McCloskey in the centre as one of nine changes to the side that lost to Leicester Tigers in Europe last week.
Michael Lowry and Alby Mathewson take over the reins at half-back, with Rob Lyttle added to the back-three alongside full-back Jacob Stockdale and Ethan McIlroy.
Captain Iain Henderson, fresh from his British & Irish Lions squad selection, and Alan O’Connor continue together in the engine room, behind a new front row trio of Andrew Warwick, John Andrew and Tom O’Toole.
Former Ireland Under-19 and Under-20 skipper David McCann will be looking to impress at number 8, while Jordi Murphy switches to blindside flanker to accommodate Marcus Rea’s inclusion at openside.
Angus Curtis, another former underage international, makes his long-awaited return to an Ulster matchday squad for the first time since suffering a serious knee injury in December 2019.
Joining Curtis on the bench are fellow backs David Shanahan and James Hume, along with former Wallaby lock Sam Carter who is set to return from injury.
With Rob Herring, Callum Reid, Martin Moore and Nick Timoney part of a strong set of replacement forwards, Ulster’s defence coach Jared Payne said: “It’s a big challenge (at Thomond Park), you can’t go down there half-hearted.
“We spent yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) trying to get everyone back up and excited again to embrace the challenge that Munster down at Thomond Park brings.
“If you don’t go down with the right mentality then it’s a tough place to go. How we start will be a big part of our approach and our mindset will be important this week. It’s going to be massive, it’s going to have to be on point.”
He added: “You have to find times to give guys opportunities, and there certainly will be some guys that will get them. Some guys will go again and we’ll see where we end up, it’s a competition that we want to win.
“We want to win rugby games. You play it to win, so regardless of who lines up, we will be going out to put in a good performance and get a win down there.”
ULSTER (v Munster): Jacob Stockdale; Rob Lyttle, Will Addison, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy; Michael Lowry, Alby Mathewson; Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (capt), Jordi Murphy, Marcus Rea, David McCann.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Reid, Martin Moore, Sam Carter, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, James Hume.