Rory Best makes surprise return as top names boost Ulster ranks
Ulster have been handed a huge boost ahead of this weekend's visit to the Dragons with the return of skipper Rory Best.
The 35-year-old has played just twice for the province this season thanks to a hamstring strain and international commitments, and took in 80 minutes in Ireland's win over Argentina last weekend.
But while most of the front-line internationals will be spared Guinness PRO14 action this weekend, Best's absences earlier in the year and subsequent low game-time have allowed him to be somewhat surprisingly cleared for action in Newport on Friday night (7.35pm kick-off).
Ulster's other Test stars who took on the Springboks and Pumas, Jacob Stockdale and Iain Henderson, will not return to provincial colours until the European clash with Harlequins next week.
Having had to field a hugely inexperienced back-row against Treviso last week, Les Kiss' men will be boosted by the returns of Sean Reidy and Chris Henry, while Stuart McCloskey is also back.
The centre won his second Test cap against Fiji a fortnight ago and assistant coach Dwayne Peel is looking forward to unleashing him on the Dragons.
"I think to have Stu back is a big thing," he said. "He has played particularly well this year and he played well against Fiji for Ireland.
"He has been good for us this year so it's good to have him back in the fold."
Ulster are still without the likes of Robbie Diack, Jean Deysel, Luke Marshall and long-term absentees Jared Payne and Marcell Coetzee.
Having only scraped by in recent wins over Benetton and Southern Kings, Peel is calling on his side to be considerably sharper in their first visit to his Welsh homeland this season.
"It's the execution of many things," he said when asked where improvements were required. "We have been making a lot of line breaks and it is about executing beyond that, we have looked at that as one thing. From last week's game, the execution of our kicking game in the second half (was poor).
"(Benetton) kept us in our own half and it was our inability to exit that put the pressure on us.
"I didn't think the decisions to kick at the time were a bad thing, it was the right call, but we had three or four kicks on the spin which put us under pressure.
"We could not release pressure and get out of our own half like we had done in the first half. I think if we had managed to do that we would have been able to exert a bit more pressure.
"There were three or four kicks on the spin that were not good enough. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that, and the players see that as well. They have worked hard this week as well. It is a case of saying, 'yeah, we will do that better and we will go out and practice and work hard at getting that better'."