Tommy Bowe will make his hugely anticipated return to Ulster colours when he lines out on the right wing against Cardiff in Friday evening’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash (7.05pm kick off).
The Cardiff Arms Park fixture will see Ulster return to action following the tragic circumstances of last week’s postponement of the clash with Zebre in Italy.
Head Coach Mark Anscombe has continued the rotation policy which has served his side so well since the start of his tenure. The New Zealander has made five personnel changes and a further three positional switches to the team which started in the 20-19 home win over Munster two weeks ago.
Bowe will start in his familiar position on the right wing, with Andrew Trimble switching to the left flank to accommodate him. As a result, Michael Allen has moved into outside centre and Darren Cave shifts in to fill the 12 jersey worn by Luke Marshall in the opening three matches of the season.
Scrumhalf Paul Marshall, outhalf Paddy Jackson and fullback Jared Payne have all retained their places from the Munster match.
Up front, regular captain Johann Muller has picked up a knock and is replaced in the second row by Neil McComb. Ireland lock Dan Tuohy will make his first appearance of the season after being named alongside McComb in the engine room.
Fellow international Chris Henry will also play for the first time this season and will captain the side from openside flanker in the absence of Muller. Stephen Ferris has been rested so rising star Iain Henderson joins Henry and Nick Williams in the back row.
An unchanged front row of Tom Court, Nigel Brady and John Afoa completes the line up.
Paddy Wallace has overcome a shoulder injury which required surgery and has returned to the match day squad to cover outhalf and centre. Michael Heaney and Craig Gilroy are the other backline replacements.
Rob Herring, Callum Black and Adam Macklin are the back up front row, with Lewis Stevenson and Mike McComish completing the bench.
The Ulstermen have won all three PRO12 encounters so far this season, whilst their only defeat in their last five clashes with Welsh regions came in this equivalent fixture last season.
Cardiff’s only defeat in the opening four rounds of this season’s RaboDirect PRO12 was 19-21 at home to Edinburgh in round two. The Blues have won just two of their last five home games, but have been victorious in their last two home fixtures with Irish provinces.
Ulster Rugby XV & replacements to face Cardiff Blues, RaboDirect PRO12, Friday 28th September, Cardiff Arms Park (7.05pm):
(15-9): J Payne; T Bowe, M Allen, D Cave, A Trimble; P Jackson, P Marshall;
(1-8): T Court, N Brady, J Afoa, N McComb, D Tuohy, I Henderson, C Henry (c), N Williams;
Replacements (16-23): R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson , M McComish, M Heaney, P Wallace, C Gilroy.
Unavailable for selection: Johann Muller, Stephen Ferris, Paddy McAllister, Chris Farrell, Robbie Diack, Ruan Pienaar, Roger Wilson, Declan Fitzpatrick, Rory Best.