Ulster are minus their Irish internationals but have recalled their other big-guns for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 meeting with Munster.
Ulster are minus their Irish contingent but do recall their other big-guns for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Munster at Ravenhill.
With two derbies within the space of four days, boss Brian McLaughlin has coached two separate teams for the games and the line-up for this Friday's match has a much more familiar look to it although Ulster are without a number of players due to injury and a bout of tummy bug in the squad, while the Ireland internationals are also unavailable due to a training camp.
“It's a huge game for us, it's at Ravenhill and it's against Munster. When the fixture list came out we were not very happy with the fact that we had a four day turnaround but we just have to manage the scheduling as best we can.” said McLaughlin.
“We want to put our best team out on the pitch as often as we possibly can, but Irish Management Programme looks after the Internationals and we have to look after the rest of the players as well so we took the decision, and it was not taken lightly, to run two separate squads for two games.”
Injury to Nevin Spence (ankle), sustained during Ulster's trip to Aironi sees Ian Whitten recalled to the starting XV for the first time since Ulster faced Treviso at Ravenhill on October 7, and he will partner Darren Cave in the centre.
Stefan Terblanche will make his first starting appearance for Ulster since arriving at the beginning of December. The South African, brought in as cover for the injured Jared Payne on a short-term contract has come off the bench twice for Ulster so far, against Aironi in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Heineken Cup.
Elsewhere Willie Faloon makes a return to the back row alongside Pedrie Wannenburg and Chris Henry while Andi Kyriacou hooks alongside Paddy McAllister and John Afoa. Callum Black, Ali Birch, Chris Farrell and Peter Nelson, who all made their Ulster debuts against Leinster, are named amongst the replacements.
“It's a big game and I don't have to say a lot to lift the guys for it, we all know that the games between Irish provinces are the big games for the team,” said captain Johann Muller.
“This week training has been outstanding, a lot of energy, there's nothing like a week off to refresh the body and mind and get everyone really keen to play rugby again.
“We know what's coming, we know Munster are an outstanding team but we're at Ravenhill, we have a great record there and we want to keep it that way.
“Munster's strength is their consistency – it doesn't matter what tournament they play in, they're always there or thereabouts. They are a team that never says die, that's the Munster that I've got to know over the last 18 months or so, they are always there and if they don't win they'll always get a losing bonus point. Consistency is a key for them, and as a squad it's something we can learn from.”
Meanwhile, just three Munster players remain from the starting XV that faced Connacht.
A four day turnaround, injury and the unavailability of his top players means Tony McGahan must once again ring the changes for what is always one of the most difficult assignments of the season.
Mick O'Driscoll, Ian Keatley and Luke O'Dea are the trio who remain while the likes of Danny Barnes and Niall Ronan, after 10 and 11 starts respectively are given a well earned rest.
“Given the very short turnaround and looking at their selection for the Leinster game last week, Ulster have clearly identified this game as the priority.” said O'Driscoll.
“Understandable really, they're at home, no side likes to lose at their own ground. So I think it sets out very clearly the task we face. But these are the sort of games you want to be judged on. We've a lot of young lads going there tomorrow. Some for the first time. It's going to be very testing and very interesting.”
Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Stefan Terblanche, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Chris Henry, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Ali Birch, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Chris Farrell, 23 Peter Nelson.
Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Luke O'Dea, 13 Tom Gleeson, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Mick O'Driscoll (capt), 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Will Chambers.
Date: Friday, December 30
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
Television match official: Tony Redmond (Ireland)