Tommy Bowe will make his first start in six months as Ulster travel to Galway on Friday to take on Connacht in Round 6 of the Guinness PRO12 (kick-off 7.35pm).
Bowe played the last 20 minutes of Saturday’s 9-7 victory over Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium, and Director of Rugby Les Kiss has rewarded him with a place on the right wing this week.
Charles Piutau and Franco van der Merwe are ruled out following injuries picked up against the Ospreys so both will sit out this week along with Ruan Pienaar who is rested as Kiss continues to manage his playing resources during an intense schedule that will see Ulster play back-to-back European Champions Cup fixtures over the next two weekends.
Bowe will be joined in the back three by Craig Gilroy and Jared Payne, who will captain the side from full-back. Darren Cave retains his place at inside centre where he will be joined in the midfield by Louis Ludik, who is enjoying a fantastic run of form this season to date.
Paddy Jackson, who kicked all of Ulster’s points last weekend, including the last minute penalty to win the game, will once again be joined by Paul Marshall at half-back.
Up front, Callum Black comes into the front row alongside Rory Best and Rodney Ah You. Robbie Diack and Pete Browne will start together in the second row, while Clive Ross comes in at openside flanker to partner Iain Henderson and Roger Wilson in the back row.
Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell and Sean Reidy will provide the replacement forward cover, while Dave Shanahan, Brett Herron and Rob Lyttle will cover the backline options from the bench.
Ulster team and replacements to play Connacht, Friday 7th October, Sportsground (kick-off 7.35pm, live on BBC2 NI and TG4):
(15-9): J Payne (C); T Bowe, L Ludik, D Cave, C Gilroy; P Jackson, P Marshall;
(1-8): C Black, R Best, R Ah You, R Diack, P Browne, I Henderson, C Ross, R Wilson;
Replacements (16-23): R Herring, A Warwick, R Kane, K Treadwell, S Reidy, D Shanahan, B Herron, R Lyttle.