Prop Declan Fitzpatrick has been withdrawn from the starting team for the RaboDirect PRO12 derby against Connacht after aggravating a medial ligament injury in training on Thursday morning.
John Afoa will now start in Friday’s game, Ulster’s first outing at home since the tragic passing of Nevin Spence. The fixture will also see fellow international Tommy Bowe line up for Ulster for the first time in four years, following his spell with Ospreys.
Ireland hooker Rory Best has returned to fitness following a hip injury and will play for his Province for the first time since the Heineken Cup final in May. Johann Muller (captain), Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace are also called into the starting XV.
Fitzpatrick and Best are joined in the front row by Tom Court, with Muller back to partner Dan Tuohy in the second row. Ferris will play alongside Chris Henry and Nick Williams in an impressive looking back row.
Centre Michael Allen, has been ruled out after suffering an ankle injury in the process of scoring against Cardiff at the weekend. Darren Cave will move to outside centre in his place, allowing Paddy Wallace to slot in at inside centre. Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson will continue their half back partnership, while the back three of Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne is also unchanged.
Ulster XV & replacements to face Connacht, RaboDirect PRO12, Friday 5th October, Ravenhill (7.05pm):
(15-9): J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, P Marshall;
(1-8): T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (c), D Tuohy, S Ferris, C Henry, N Williams;
Replacements (16-23): R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, M McComish, M Heaney, L Marshall, C Gilroy.