Clinton Schifcofske was last night given the greenlight to face the Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill for tonight’s Magners League clash (kick-off 7.30pm).
Schifcofske, who limped off midway through the first half in the defeat to Cardiff Blues last Friday night having suffered a bang to his Achilles tendon, has made remarkable progress this week and after a fitness test yesterday will take his place at full-back.
Paddy Wallace, however, has been ruled out for around three weeks with a hamstring injury and now faces a battle to be fit in time for Ulster’s Heineken Cup opener against Stade Francais at Ravenhill on Saturday October 11.
In Wallace’s absence, Ian Humphreys comes into the match 22 for the first time this season, taking his place on the bench after an impressive show for Ulster A in the victory over Leinster A last Friday.
As expected, David Pollock is also ruled out, having picked up a shoulder injury, so Kieron Dawson returns to the openside flank, with Rob Dewey, who came on for Wallace midway through the first half against Cardiff, keeping his place in the midfield alongside Darren Cave.
Italy lock Carlo Del Fava, who missed the trip to Cardiff with a shoulder injury sustained in the opening day defeat to the Scarlets, also returns to the squad, but will start the game on the bench with Ryan Caldwell keeping his place in the second row alongside Ed O’Donoghue.
Ulster coach Matt Williams was bitterly disappointed with aspects of his side’s performance in Cardiff but he believes they can get it right tonight.
“I know my team can win this game; we played some great rugby on Friday night in Cardiff and the players’ effort was spot on,” said Williams.
“If we can repeat that effort and style of rugby and control our penalty count then I am confident we can beat the Dragons.”
“The Dragons will be nervous about coming to Ravenhill; they know how intimidating it can be to play here.
“But they will be sore from their defeat to Munster so we will be taking nothing for granted.
“We need this win and we are determined to get it.”
Both sides are currently winless, with Dragons slightly worse off with three defeats to Ulster’s two.
The Dragons’ last visit to Belfast was Williams’ first in charge and Ulster crowned it with a six-try romp.
Ulster captain Rory Best, who also had some harsh words for his players in the dressing room after the Cardiff defeat, wants his side to replicate that performance in February.
“That was a special night at Ravenhill and the players that played in that game who are playing tomorrow night want more of the same; the atmosphere at Ravenhill was electric and we know we can beat the Dragons if we put in a good performance,” he said.
ULSTER: C Schifcofske; A Trimble, D Cave, R Dewey, T Nagusa; N O’Connor, l Boss; T Court; R Best (Capt), B Botha, R Caldwell, E O'Donoghue, M McCullough, K Dawson, R Diack.
Replacements: N Brady, J Fitzpatrick, C Del Fava, T Anderson, C Willis, I Humphreys, B Cunningham.