Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe has named a team missing several internationals for their RaboDirect PRO12 opener at the Dragons.
Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe has announced a line-up missing several internationals for their RaboDirect PRO12 opener against the Dragons.
The selection of Paddy Jackson at fly-half is the only change to the backline that began last weekend's pre-season friendly against Leicester.
Jared Payne starts at full-back, with Andrew Trimble and David McIlwaine on the wings. Chris Farrell and Luke Marshall are named at centre.
Callum Black and Ricky Lutton start in the front-row, either side of Rob Herring who is picked at hooker. Captain Johann Muller and Dan Tuohy are paired in the second-row with Robbie Diack, Chris Henry and Roger Wilson in the back-row.
Nick Williams was not available for selection as he's returned to New Zealand for family reasons.
Meanwhile, Welsh international and Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs will lead the regional side for what is his first official duty as captain.
New faces in the starting line-up are Richie Rees, T. Rhys Thomas and Matthew Screech while Francisco Chaparro, Netani Talei and Kris Burton are on the replacements bench.
Hallam Amos also moves from full-back into wing as Tom Prydie takes on the other wing. The centre pairing remains similar to last season as Jack Dixon and Pat Leach start.
“To be the best you've got to play against the best, we can't measure ourselves against the lower end of the league, we want to compete and be at the top. To do that we need to perform and learn from playing the best,” said rugby director Lyn Jones ahead of the game.
Form: Dragons beat Zebre in round one of the RaboDirect PRO12 last season – the only time they have begun a new campaign with maximum points. Dragons won just one of their last six matches in 2012/13: 30-24 at home to Munster on 19 April. Ulster, who were the losing finalists in the PRO12 final in May, have begun the new season with a victory in each of the past three campaigns. The Ulstermen's only defeat to a Welsh region in their last ten such meetings was 12-16 at home to Ospreys on 8 February 2013. The Men from Gwent have beaten Ulster just once since the opening round of the 2009/10 season: 22-9 at Rodney Parade on 30 September 2011.
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Andrew Coombs (capt), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Dan Way, 2 T.Rhys Thomas, 1 Aaron Coundley.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Phil Price, 18 Francisco Chaparro, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Kris Burton, 23 Ross Wardle.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 David McIlwaine, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Ian Porter, 22 James McKinney, 23 Darren Cave.
Date: Friday, September 6
Kick-off: 19:15 BST
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant referees: Leighton Hodges (Wales), Neil Hennessy (Wales)