With eight first-team regulars and one newcomer now busy preparing for World Cup duty, Ulster welcome back Ian Humphreys and Nevin Spence for tomorrow night’s Ravenhill friendly against Harlequins (7.30pm).
For their third and final pre-season warm-up game ahead of the September 2 start of the RaboDirect Pro12 in which they entertain Glasgow, Ulster — the absence of captain Johann Muller and vice-captain Rory Best — will be skippered by Chris Henry
Props Paddy McAllister and Jerry Cronin and the second row partners Lewis Stevenson and Neil McComb are the only survivors from the side which beat Neath 34-15 last Friday.
Having recovered from shoulder surgery, Humphreys and Spence sample action for the first time in 2011/12. And Dan Tuohy — sidelined since May after a severe hamstring tear — is one of 11 replacements.
Spence lines out inside Cave for what in what is an exciting midfield partnership, with Humphreys and Paul Marshall in tandem at half-back while Adam D’Arcy, Conor Gaston and Craig Gilroy form the back three.
Andi Kyriacou packs down between McAllister and Cronin, with Henry’s back row partners being Pedrie Wannenburg and Willie Faloon.
While admitting that Ulster will miss their marquee players tomorrow night and for quite a few more weeks, coach Brian McLaughlin stressed the positive by saying: “We now have nine people involved in the World Cup so from our point of view we’re well pleased.
“We’re delighted for those guys and we know they’ll do us proud when they are representing their countries.
“We’re more than pleased with the five Declan Kidney has selected for Ireland, though we do feel — based on our performance last year — that the likes of Chris, Darren and Nevin weren’t too far away.
“Nevin was unable to stake his claim due to injury over the summer, but we feel that had he been fit, and had Darren and Chris been given more of an opportunity, those guys would have been in even more serious contention for selection.”
Tickets, starting at £12 for adults, are available from the Ravenhill Ticket Office, www.ulsterrugby.com, SS Moores and other usual outlets. The match is included in the 2011/12 season ticket package.
With ticket zoning and scanning in operation at the ground, spectators must enter Ravenhill via the correct gate.