Ulster duo Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson form the halfback partnership in a strong Ireland Wolfhounds side who face England Saxons at The Sportsground, Connacht on Friday night.
It is an excellent opportunity for both to stake a claim for inclusion possibly on the bench for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Wales on Cardiff on Saturday week.
Also looking to impress the Irish management will be Ulster winger Andrew Trimble and Leinster three-quarter Luke Fitzgerald, with one starting wing berth next weekend still potentially up for grabs.
Ulster centre, Darren Cave teams up with Connacht’s Dave McSharry in the centre, while exciting fullback prospect, Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), is one of seven uncapped players in the starting side.
Ulster lock, Lewis Stevenson is set to make his debut at Ireland ‘A’ level, the only Ulsterman in a pack which is captained by Munster No 8 James Coughlin.
On the bench Ulster props, Tom Court and Declan Fitzpatrick are included along with Iain Henderson.
Leicester back-row forward Jordan Crane will captain the a Saxons team containing five debutants in Wasps back Elliot Daly, Leicester fly-half George Ford and the Saracens trio of Joel Tomkins, George Kruis and Will Fraser.
IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: R Henshaw (Connacht); A Trimble (Ulster), D Cave (Ulster), D McSharry (Connacht), L Fitzgerald (Leinster); P Jackson (Ulster), P Marshall (Ulster); D Kilcoyne (Munster), M Sherry (Munster), M Bent (Leinster); L Stevenson (Ulster), D Toner (Leinster); K McLaughlin (Leinster), T O’Donnell (Munster), J Coughlin (Munster, capt) Replacements: D Varley (Munster), T Court (Ulster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), I Henderson (Ulster), R Ruddock (Leinster), I Boss (Leinster), I Madigan (Leinster), I Keatley (Munster)
ENGLAND SAXONS: E Daly (Wasps); C Wade (Wasps), J Tomkins (Saracens), J Turner-Hall (Harlequins), T Biggs (Bath); G Ford (Leicester), R Wigglesworth (Saracens); N Wood (Gloucester), J Gray (Harlequins), P Doran-Jones (Northampton), G Kitchener (Leicester), G Robson (Harlequins), G Kruis (Saracens), W Fraser (Saracens), J Crane (Leicester, capt).
Replacements: R Buchanan (Harlequins), M Mullan (Worcester), S Knight (Gloucester), E Slater (Leicester), J Gibson (London Irish), J Simpson (Wasps), G Lowe (Harlequins), K Eastmond (Bath)
Meanwhile, although a venue for the Heineken Cup quarter-final between Saracens and Ulster remains up in the air, the confirmation of the date and kick-off time on Thursday sparked a flurry of flight booking for Ulster fans.
The eagerly anticipated clash will be played on Saturday, April 6 at 6.30pm, most likely in London with the prospect of the game being the first European tie played on an artificial surface still a possiblity.
It is thought Saracens are exploring their new Allianz Park home as a possible quarter-final location, although Milton Keynes’ Stadium:mk could be another option.
The quarter-final weekend will open with the all-French quarter-final between Clermont Auvergne and Montpellier on Saturday, followed by the Saracens v Ulster match. On Sunday, following the Munster clash with Quins (2pm), Leicester Tigers’ appointment with Toulon in France will kick-off at 4.30pm.will complete the fixtures.