The Ulster squad has been named for Saturday’s crucial Guinness PRO14 tie against Isuzu Southern Kings (Kingspan Stadium, 5.30pm).
Dan McFarland’s men are unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions and they will hope to continue that recent good form as they battle for a play-off spot in Conference B.
Tickets for the game, which is Ulster Rugby’s annual family fixture, are available at ulsterrugby.com/buytickets, with junior tickets costing just £5.
There are five personnel changes to the team that managed a bonus point win away to Dragons earlier this month.
Four of the new faces are up front, with loosehead prop Andy Warwick, lock Ian Nagle and back rows Matty Rea and Marcell Coetzee introduced to the starting pack. Coetzee will make a welcome return from injury, having not featured since January’s decisive Heineken Champions Cup defeat of Leicester at Welford Road.
Rob Herring and Marty Moore will join Warwick in the front row, while captain Alan O’Connor partners Nagle in the second row. Nick Timoney, so impressive at Rodney Parade in his last outing, is named as the other loose forward.
The only alteration to the backline is at scrumhalf, with Dave Shanahan coming in to partner Billy Burns at half back. Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave continue in midfield, and pacy wingers Rob Lyttle and Rob Baloucoune are again selected in the back three alongside Louis Ludik.
John Andrew, Wiehahn Herbst and Tom O’Toole will provide front row cover on the bench, while Kieran Treadwell and Clive Ross are the other forward options.
John Cooney, Michael Lowry and Angus Kernohan, who helped Ireland U20s to a Six Nations Grand Slam success last weekend, are the backline replacements.
Ulster team to play Isuzu Southern Kings, Guinness PRO14 Round 18, Saturday 23rd March, Kingspan Stadium (5.30pm):
(15-9): L Ludik; R Baloucoune, D Cave, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns, D Shanahan;
(1-8): A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore, A O’Connor (captain), I Nagle, M Rea, N Timoney, M Coetzee;
Replacements (16-23): J Andrew, W Herbst, T O’Toole, K Treadwell, C Ross, J Cooney, M Lowry, A Kernohan.