Ulster may be missing several of their summer tourists due to the international player management programme, but head coach, Mark Anscombe, is still able to field a strong squad for Friday night’s pre-season friendly against Leinster.
An Irish derby in a partially new look Ravenhill - the new stands at the Memorial and Aquinas ends of the ground will be open for the first time as the redevelopment work continues - has drawn plenty of interest with 10,000 tickets already sold.
Fans would have known both Provinces would be without key players, as is the case every new season, but the opportunity to sample what the new stadium in Belfast has to offer has whetted the appetite of many.
Coach Anscombe was relaxed on Tuesday as he looked ahead of the start of his second season with Ulster.
He joked that thankfully the early preparations of pres-season fitness and training had gone well and that there were no further injury concerns.
Having endured a season like his first at Ulster which was littered with a pelthora of injuries, several of them long term, the New Zealander still saw Ulster make the PRO12 final.
That was their last fixture of the season and Friday night’s game is in some respects a rematch, with the RaboDirect Champions, Leinster making the short trip to Belfast from Dublin where they won 24-18 in the domestic showpiece last May.
“It is a good test for both clubs,” said Anscombe. “A chance to test the strength in depth.”
Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Stuart Olding, Darren Cave and Paddy Jackson will all miss the derby action along with Lions Rory Best, Tom Court and Tommy Bowe.
Best and Court are set to return for the fourth week of the season proper, while Bowe, currently out with a wrist injury, may return at the same time or, provided there are no complications with his fresh injury, a week later.
Paddy Wallace and Stephen Ferris remain on the injury list, but that was something most were aware of.
Ulster had a large number of players away on summer tours, but Dan Tuohy, Declan Fitzpatrick and Robbie Diack, will all get the opportunity to be involved this weekend.
Paddy McAllister, who missed most of last season with an injury, had hoped to return for the pre-season, but he has suffered a hamstring injury and his return is delayed.
However, one player who will be keen to hit the straps on Friday night is centre, Chris Farrell.
He missed last season due to an AC injury suffered almost a year ago.
The progression of Luke Marshall and Stuart Olding through the Ulster and international ranks has left Farrell playing catch-up to a degree, given there were big hopes expected for him last year.
However, at only 20 the Tyrone youngster has time on his side.
Anscombe said: “Chris is obviously as keen as mustard to get out there and play.
“He missed the entire season last year, but he has worked hard and he looked really keen and fresh in pre-season training as you would expect.”
Although Friday’s game is a pre-season friendly, an inter-pro at any time of the season will always have an edge to it.
Anscombe and the management team at Ulster will be using the session to get as many players out as possible and up to 30 squad members could be used in the fixture which has a 7.30pm kick-off.