Internationals Rory Best and Ruan Pienaar will start for Ulster in Saturday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final showdown with Leinster at Dublin’s RDS (7pm).
It is a huge boost for Mark Anscombe’s side as they bid to reach successive PRO12 Grand Finals against the reigning champions who defeated them in last season’s decider.
Scrumhalf Pienaar suffered a shoulder injury in a regular season PRO12 home win against Scarlets in March, but started against Saracens in the Heineken Cup quarter-final loss at the start of April.
However, he suffered a reoccurence of the injury in that European game, while hooker Best was also forced out of the tie early with an ankle injury.
Although it had been initially thought they would be out for the remainder of the season – they have progressed well in rehab and trained this week putting them in the frontline for the Dublin tie.
There was a further boost with Robbie Diack also expected to start, and in the front row Ricky Lutton has also recovered from injury to start ahead of young Andy Warwick who has been the find of the campaign, albeit late in the season. The Ballymena man will bench.
It does ease the front row injury situation with Lutton’s return on the tight side, while Callum Black starts on the loose again after a solid display in Munster last weekend as a shadow Ulster side won 19-17.
Tom Court is unavailable due to suspension, but if Ulster reached the final on May 31 he will be able to play.
In the backline, Ulster are likely to go with Jared Payne in midfield, as they did when they met Leinster at Ravenhill recently, although he will partner Darren Cave in Dublin with Luke Marshall on the bench.
Ulster and Leinster will confirm their line-ups at noon on Friday.