The Ulster team has been named for Friday’s rescheduled United Rugby Championship derby against Connacht at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm). Tickets are available to buy here.
Stuart McCloskey has returned from injury to start alongside Angus Curtis in midfield. Michael Lowry and Robert Baloucoune have been released from Ireland camp, lining out at full-back and on the right wing respectively.
Ethan McIlroy switches to the left wing, while half-backs Billy Burns and Nathan Doak have been retained from last Friday’s 27-15 victory over the Scarlets.
Andrew Warwick is set to start at loosehead prop alongside John Andrew at hooker, and Gareth Milasinovich makes his first start for Ulster this season at tighthead.
Alan O’Connor has the captaincy reins as the Ulstermen aim to avenge October’s 36-11 defeat to Connacht in Dublin. He is joined by Sam Carter in the second row.
Ulster skipper O’Connor commented: “Playing against Connacht is always fun in all the right ways, and they will be coming up to take our scalp.
“We let ourselves down at the Aviva earlier on in the season and they also beat us here in the Kingspan last year. We definitely owe them one, or two, or three!
“We need to get our mindset right and we’re looking forward to the physical battle. I think we are in a great place in terms of the whole squad.
“There is always competition for places and the guys that come in just step up, enjoy playing their rugby and look like they are enjoying it. They are not just coming in to fit in – they are coming in to make a mark which is great.”
The back row remains unchanged from last week, Greg Jones and Marcus Rea filling the flanker roles and strong-carrying Springbok star Duane Vermeulen at number 8.
On-loan hooker Declan Moore, who will officially join Ulster on a two-year deal this summer, is named among the forward replacements alongside Callum Reid, Ross Kane and Mick Kearney.
Nick Timoney is also released for bench duty after training with the Ireland squad in Portugal. The back-line reinforcements are David Shanahan, Ben Moxham and Rob Lyttle.
ULSTER (v Connacht): Michael Lowry; Robert Baloucoune, Angus Curtis, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Gareth Milasinovich, Alan O’Connor (capt), Sam Carter, Greg Jones, Marcus Rea, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Declan Moore, Callum Reid, Ross Kane, Mick Kearney, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Ben Moxham, Rob Lyttle.