The return of Stephen Ferris sees Ulster captain Chris Henry move to No 8 to accommodate him in tonight’s side to face Magners League pace-setters, Edinburgh, at Ravenhill (8pm).
Fully recovered from the knee injury which cut short his South African tour, and having satisfied the IRFU’s non-playing recovery and recuperation period requirements, the return of the 2009 Grand Slam winner and Lion is a huge boost.
For the unfortunate Robbie Diack, however, Ferris’s restoration and Henry’s switch means he must make do with a place on the bench, with Thomas Anderson making way for him.
In the only other change to the side which started against Ospreys last Saturday, Magners League debutant Neil McComb replaces the injured Dan Tuohy as Ed O’Donoghue’s second row partner.
The backs are retained as a septet, though there are changes on the bench, with Niall O'Connor and Jonny Shiels dropping out to make way for Irish international duo, Paddy Wallace and Andrew Trimble.
Coach Brian McLaughlin said: “Because they’ve been at the Irish camp in Dublin they haven’t been training, so we’ll start with them on the bench and introduce them later in the hope of them making an input.”
This, of course, will be McLaughlin’s first competitive match at Ravenhill and he has called on his players to give the crowd a night to remember.
“We came out all guns blazing last weekend against the Ospreys, and performed very well. We must play like this time and time again, maintaining that level of play and driving it forward,” he said.
“Our defence was good, our setpieces were strong, our passing was more accurate and our finishing was clinical.
“There are always areas in which we can improve, and most importantly we need to ensure there is continuity in our game, week in, week out. We know there are no easy games in professional rugby; they are all hard fought down to the wire.
“We can't afford to go out and play under par. We must be punching our weight every time we play and for the full 80 minutes. We must do ourselves and our supporters justice, and this is especially important in front of our home crowd.”