Andrew Trimble has been given the nod ahead of Irish rugby’s boy wonder Craig Gilroy for tomorrow night’s Heineken Cup Pool 4 with Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens (8pm).
Trimble starts on the left wing, with Gilroy having to be content with a place on the bench.
Coach Mark Anscombe has gone for experience in midfield, too, where Paddy Wallace starts ahead of Luke Marshall.
But the fledgling who has made it is 20-year-old Iain Henderson who starts at six.
There a place ain the back rown for Nick Williams, though, with Roger Wilson named at No 8.
As well as Wallace, seven more of those rested for last Sunday’s have returned to the line-up.
They are Ruan Pienaar, Jared Payne, Tommy Bowe — who will be making his 50th Heineken Cup appearance — Rory Best, Tom Court, Dan Tuohy and Chris Henry.
Ricky Lutton could make his Heineken Cup debut if he takes to the field at any time during Friday’s game. The 26 year old development prop has made one previous appearance - as a substitute in the RaboDirect PRO12 win over Edinburgh last month.
Nigel Brady and Robbie Diack, along with Callum Black, Ricky Lutton and Williams will be the forward options off the bench.
Paul and Luke Marshall and Gilroy, all of whom featured for the Ireland XV in their fixture with Fiji last month, will offer great quality as replacement backs.
Ulster have no new injury concerns; they are missing Stephen Ferris, who underwent surgery on his ankle yesterday, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, and long term absentees Chris Farrell and Paddy McAllister.
Commenting on some tough selection calls, Anscombe said: “There were some difficult decisions but that’s what you want. The guys who have missed out this week have been outstandingly positive and that’s very pleasing."
Focussing on the forward battle in store on Friday, he said: “They have a strong pack and they build their game around that. They don’t hide from that fact and they’re confident in it. Their set piece is very strong and we’ve got to be excited about meeting that front on. We’ve got to conquer them up front if we’re going to compete because you’ve got to have front foot ball. The tight five have to step up and show their qualities, but I’m confident in them, they’ve all played international rugby.”
Having played each other in the pool stages in 2002/03 and again in the quarter final of the 2010/11 edition, this will be the fourth European encounter between the two sides. All three previous meetings have been won by the team playing at home.
Both teams are showing good domestic form. Northampton currently occupy third spot in the Premiership standings, just two behind frontrunners Harlequins, while Ulster have a nine point cushion at the top of the PRO12. With two wins from two in Europe, the Belfast based side also have a three point gap between themselves and their English opponents.
Ulster have played 52 matches away from home in the Heineken Cup, winning only 12. In contrast, they come up against a side with a record of 29 wins and only 7 losses on home soil. A 13th away success would not only secure a 50th overall tournament victory, but it would also put the Ulstermen in the driving seat for qualification to the knock out stages.
Ulster XV & replacements to face Northampton Saints, Heineken Cup, Friday 7th December, Franklin’s Gardens (8.00pm):
(15-9): J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, R Pienaar;
(1-8): T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (c), D Tuohy, I Henderson, C Henry, R Wilson;
Replacements (16-23): N Brady, C Black, R Lutton, R Diack, N Williams, P Marshall, L Marshall, C Gilroy