Neil Doak not concerned by injuries as Piutau debuts
Everything shifts up a gear this weekend for Ulster as their pre-season programme of friendlies takes them to Exeter Chiefs this afternoon (3pm kick-off).
And the make-up of the side Les Kiss is taking over to the West Country is substantially different from the largely Academy-based squad which togged out in last weekend's defeat to Leinster at Navan with star signing Charles Piutau making his debut at full-back.
With the bulk of the Academy players getting a hit-out in France against Jeremy Davidson's Aurillac, Kiss and head coach Neil Doak will be casting their gaze over a senior squad that contains something close to the panel likely to be available for the opening PRO12 game with the Dragons on Friday, September 2.
With the province's Ireland contingent likely to be back playing around about the third week of the PRO12, it is now vital that today's game with Exeter - along with next week's final hit-out against Northampton at the Kingspan - builds momentum.
"Of course there's some chopping and changing this week," Doak said regarding the selection. We know it's definitely going to be a lift-up from last week but it is still early season and we want to see how combinations work with some guys getting their first games and new players trying to bed into the systems."
The lack of fit openside flankers looks concerning, with new signing Marcell Coetzee's ACL keeping him sidelined until January and Chris Henry also out for the foreseeable.
"It's part and parcel of the game," said Doak.
"For us it's water off a duck's back so it's a case of 'who's next in line?' The good thing over the last couple of weeks is that we've tried not to complicate things too much so if anybody does drop back in or out at the last minute we're quite simple with some of our plays."
Ulster: C Piutau; L Ludik, D Cave, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Herron, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring (c), R Ah You; P Browne, F van der Merwe; R Diack, C Ross, R Wilson;
Replacements: J Andrew, K McCall, A Warwick, J Simpson, A O'Connor, K Treadwell, M Rea, S Mulholland, P Marshall, J McPhillips, S Windsor, M Best, D Busby, R Lyttle.