Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe still have time to prove their class
There are two notable names on the Ulster teamsheet to face Edinburgh at Goldenacre this evening (6.30pm) after both Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble were released by Ireland to feature in the clash.
With Wales visiting Dublin tomorrow, the wing duo would have much preferred one more chance to impress Joe Schmidt before the World Cup squad is decided this weekend but will instead have to make do with starts in Ulster's final pre-season fixture.
It will be valuable game time for both - Trimble must prove he is fully recovered from a foot injury while Bowe has played only an hour so far this summer - and they will still feel that their World Cup dreams are far from over.
Schmidt said yesterday that players involved for their provinces this weekend were still very much in his plans while his assistant coach, and future Ulster Director of Rugby, Les Kiss confirmed earlier in the week that the Ireland set-up would be keeping a close eye on the games involving Ulster, Leinster and Munster.
"We're still very open-minded," said Schmidt at Carton House yesterday.
"I know some of the players who play for their province are likely to be in the 31 and some of the players who are still with us are potentially going to miss out."
Bowe and Trimble - who have a combined 11 caps of World Cup experience - however will now be forced to cast an anxious eye over the performances of Keith Earls, Dave Kearney and Felix Jones against Warren Gatland's men tomorrow and hope that, when Schmidt calls on Sunday evening, he is not the bearer of bad news.
Tonight, they are joined in Ulster's back-three by Craig Gilroy, another who has been released by Ireland, while the side is captained by Rob Herring.
Luke Marshall, man of the match against Leinster last week, will play at 13 alongside Stuart McCloskey with the half-backs once again Ian Humphreys and Paul Marshall.
In the front-row, Andrew Warwick and Wiehahn Herbst will start either side of Herring with Dan Tuohy and Franco van der Merwe in the engine room.
Willie Faloon has to wait for his first start since returning from Connacht so the back-row will be Clive Ross, Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy.
While Louis Ludik is back on the bench, there are still injury concerns for Neil Doak ahead of the new season with number 8 Roger Wilson again missing out with a foot injury and prop Callum Black not featuring for a second week in a row.
Assistant coach Joe Barakat thinks tonight's encounter will see a marked increase in intensity compared to the defeat against their inter-provincial rivals seven days ago, especially as wholesale changes will not occur at half-time.
"We're treating this game as a PRO12 game," confirmed the Australian defence specialist.
"You have to springboard into something. You can't still trial and think you'll be fine the next week."
Given the number of players who will be absent during the World Cup, squad places for the PRO12 opener against the Ospreys are up for grabs with Barakat already saying that the team will be chosen on merit.
"We don't pick players, we just put the names down on paper," he said.
"The players pick themselves by how they perform.
"For tomorrow night, we've picked the right guys who gave us what we wanted (against Leinster).
"We've picked the guys who put us in the right frame of mind in that first half.
"We're happy with the direction we're heading in and we're comfortable with how the players see it.
"We've just got to move forward."
Ulster team: C Gilroy, T Bowe, L Marshall, S McCloskey, A Trimble, I Humphreys, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring (Captain) W Herbst, D Tuohy, F Van der Merwe, C Ross, S Reidy, R Diack. Replacements: P Jackson, R Murphy, R Lutton, P Browne, W Faloon, D Shanahan, S Windsor, S Arnold, L Ludik, P Nelson, C Joyce.