Ulster make the trip to Glasgow Warriors’ Scotstoun Stadium in a bid to secure an important win on the road in round 14 of the BKT United Rugby Championship on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm).
After a break for the opening rounds of the Guinness Six Nations, Ulster will resume their URC campaign against fifth-placed Glasgow, who are currently enjoying a successful run in both domestic and European action.
A result for the province on Friday, to follow-up an important 35-5 bonus point victory over the DHL Stormers, could see Ulster move closer to table-topping Leinster ahead of next week’s rearranged clash with the Cell C Sharks in Durban.
Head coach Dan McFarland knows his side will face a real challenge against Franco Smith’s men, acknowledging: “Glasgow are nine games unbeaten now. They play a very exciting brand of rugby and are extremely dangerous.
“We saw they have a bit of steel about them when they played Edinburgh back-to-back over Christmas.
“They’ll definitely come into this game as favourites off the back of the run of wins they’ve had, and the position they are in the league. I see it that it’s all up for grabs.”
Loosehead prop Eric O’Sullivan will earn his 100th Ulster cap in Glasgow. Tom Stewart, who returns from his involvement with Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad, and in-form tighthead Jeff Toomaga-Allen complete the front row.
Captain Alan O’Connor and Kieran Treadwell pack down together at lock, with 21-year-old Academy player Harry Sheridan, who made his Ulster debut against La Rochelle last month, joining Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney in the back row.
Billy Burns and Nathan Doak, who scored a try and kicked eight points against the Stormers, lead a strong back-line that has James Hume and Stewart Moore retained as the province’s centre pairing.
Jacob Stockdale, who is also back from Ireland camp, forms the back-three with Ben Moxham, who scored his first try for Ulster in their most recent win, and Ethan McIlroy who features at full-back.
Replacement cover for the forwards comes from John Andrew, Rory Sutherland, who returns from international duty with Scotland, Andrew Warwick, Cormac Izuchukwu and Greg Jones. The back-line options are John Cooney, Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy.
ULSTER (v Glasgow Warriors): Ethan McIlroy; Ben Moxham, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Eric O’Sullivan, Tom Stewart, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Alan O’Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell, Harry Sheridan, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Rory Sutherland, Andrew Warwick, Cormac Izuchukwu, Greg Jones, John Cooney, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy.