ULSTER HAVE NAMED a powerful-looking starting XV for the clash with the Cardiff Blues at Arms Park tomorrow evening [KO 6.30pm].
The back row of Stephen Ferris, Nick Williams and Six Nations champion Chris Henry is particularly exciting for fans of the northern province, offering a blend of explosive power and breakdown expertise.
Ireland international Dan Tuohy has been selected alongside captain Johann Muller in the second row, while Tom Court, Rob Herring and John Afoa will start in the front row.
33-year-old loosehead prop Court is set to make his 150th appearance for Ulster tomorrow night, a notable milestone for the man who will join London Irish at the end of the season.
Ruan Pienaar is absent at scrum-half again, having picked up a shoulder injury in the victory over the Scarlets on the 14th of March. Michael Heaney gets the opportunity to continue in the number nine jersey as a result, partnering Paddy Jackson in the halfbacks.
Luke Marshall and Darren Cave line up in midfield, with Jared Payne, Tommy Bowe and the in-form Andrew Trimble making up a potentially potent back three.
The Ulster bench includes Ireland internationals Craig Gilroy and Iain Henderson, as well as Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, while academy prop Andrew Warwick is in the match day 23 again this weekend.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Meanwhile, Connacht coach Pat Lam has named an unchanged team for the third week in-a-row ahead of the visit to the Scarlets on Sunday [KO 2.05pm].
John Muldoon continues as captain in the ongoing absence of Craig Clarke, while hooker Jason Harris-Wright will win his 40th cap for the province at Parc y Scarlets.
Connacht are on a four-game winning streak in the Pro12, and will need to continue that excellent form if they are to force their way into the top six, thereby almost certainly securing a place in the top-tier European competition for next season.
Ulster (v Cardiff Blues): Jared Payne; Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Jackson, Michael Heaney; Tom Court, Rob Herring, John Afoa; Johann Muller (capt.), Dan Tuohy; S Ferris, C Henry, N Williams.
Replacements: Niall Annett, Andrew Warwick, Ricky Lutton, Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Paul Marshall, Craig Gilroy.
Connacht (v Scarlets): Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Fionn Carr; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright; Rodney Ah You; Aly Muldowney, Mick Kearney; John Muldoon (capt.), Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Nathan White, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora, Darragh Leader.