Brian McLaughlin has named his starting team and replacements for the away fixture against Treviso on Saturday (kick off 3.15pm GMT).
Ulster have been boosted by Johann Muller (calf) and Darren Cave (foot) returning to action after two months on the sidelines. Muller has not featured since the Heineken Cup clash with Clermont on 21st January, while Cave has been unavailable since the previous week against Leicester.
Ian Humphreys has been recalled to the starting XV so Ruan Pienaar switches back to scrumhalf at the expense of Paul Marshall. Cave will partner Paddy Wallace at centre, while the back three of Stefan Terblanche, Craig Gilroy and Adam D’Arcy is unchanged from the last outing against Edinbugh.
Up front, Tom Court has returned from International duty and will join Andi Kyriacou and John Afoa in the front row, with Muller partnering Dan Tuohy in the engine room once again. Pedrie Wannenburg has been ruled out by illness so the back row is made up by Chris Henry, Willie Faloon and Robbie Diack.
Ireland players Andrew Trimble, Rory Best and Stephen Ferris have been rested after starting every Six Nations game.
Ulster have had two weekends without a game, following the 38-16 win over Edinbugh at the beginning of the month.
McLaughlin feels this will have a positive rather than negative effect on his charges: “The players are feeling rejuvenated after a few weeks off. We are into the final phase of the season now and all the games are vital so it’s important they feel fresh. We want to claim a playoff spot in the PRO12 and we also have Europe on the horizon so it’s easy to get the players motivated.”
The break between matches has also provided Cave and Muller with more time to overcome thir respective injuries and McLaughlin is delighted to have them back: “Johann is a superb leader and it’s always great to have him available. He is a great lineout forward and he will lift others around him with his presence.
“We felt that Darren deserved a chance to come back in and show what he can do because he was playing really well before the injury. We are very strong in the centres and Ian (Whitten) and Nevin (Spence) have done a tremendous job over the past couple of months so it was a tough decision.”
Commenting on the return of Ian Humphreys to the starting line-up, the Ulster coach said: “We looked at Paul and Ruan as our half backs but when Ian is on form, he is the best organiser in the team and he really gets us going and helps us play the brand of rugby we want to play.”
He concluded: “Pedrie has been ruled out due to illness but we expect him to be back for next week against Aironi. It will be important to have everyone fit and available going into the business end of the season.”
Ulster Match Day Squad to face Treviso, Saturday 24th March 2012, Stadio Monigo (kick-off 3.15pm GMT)
(15-9): A D’Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, P Wallace, S Terblanche; I Humphreys, R Pienaar;
(1-8): T Court, A Kyriacou, J Afoa, J Muller (capt), D Tuohy, C Henry, W Faloon, R Diack;
Replacements (16-23): N Brady, P McAllister, A Macklin, L Stevenson, N McComb, P Marshall, I Whitten, N Spence
Unavailable due to injury: J Payne (achilles), D Fitzpatrick (neck), S Danielli (hamstring), Mike McComish (concussion), P Wannenburg (illness)
Unavailable due to player management: Rory Best, Andrew Trimble, Stephen Ferris