Ulster’s unbeaten run in the RaboDirect PRO12 league will come under pressure on Saturday when they take on former champions Munster, as they start the second half of the campaign in Thomond Park, Limerick.
As expected, both teams are showing several changes from those which played in the first of the back to back Irish derbies last weekend due to the Irish National training camp this week and the management of players with an important January coming up for both Provinces.
Ulster, while making 11 changes from the winning team against Leinster which saw them extend their unbeaten league record to 11 matches, are able to field an all-Irish qualified matchday 23.
Craig Gilroy, who attended the Irish camp over the past two days, is released to play, with Luke Marshall, Neil McComb and Robbie Diack the other three who are retained in the side.
Paul Marshall and Niall O’Connor form the vital halfback partnership, while Adam D’Arcy will make his first start of the season for the Province at fullback.
Gilroy is joined at three-quarters by Chris Cochrane and Michael Allen teams up with Luke Marshall in the midfield.
Up front, Callum Black, Rob Herring and Adam Macklin form a new front row combination, while Lewis Stevenson has returned from an eight week injury lay off to come straight into the starting team and partners McComb in the engine room.
Roger Wilson will captain the team from No 8 and he is joined in the backrow by Mike McComish (openside) and Diack.
There are opportunities on the bench for Hughes Insurance Academy players Ali Birch, Stuart Olding, Ricky Andrew and Alan O’Connor, who made his debut against his home Province last weekend.
Hooker Niall Annett, prop Ricky Lutton and scrumhalf Michael Heaney provide further back up.
Experienced prop Tom Court, who was the BBC Sport NI man of the match last week, is also included in the side – surprisingly not included in this week’s National training camp.
Munster made seven changes to the side which defeated Connacht last week, a win that pushed them into third place, five points behind second placed Scarlets.
Ulster maintained a nine point lead at the top after Scarlets lost to Ospreys on Boxing Day.
Anscombe said that in spite of Ulster being nine points clear at the top Ospreys win over Scarlets reflected how close the teams were.
“It was an impressive performance by the Ospreys and it just goes to show its what happens on the day. I think in this competition the teams sitting at the bottom have given us just as hard a game as the teams in second and third.
“You cannot underestimate anyone, this whole competition is about how you prepare, how you get the right mind frame for the players to get consistency in their performance.
“We have had to make changes to our side but Munster have as well. We are going to Thomond Park striving for a win and you can be sure Munster will be doing everything they can to get that win as well.”