New director of rugby, Les Kiss, made four personnel and three positional changes for Ulster’s trip to Newport on Sunday as the Province search for their first away win of the Guinness PRO12 season against the Dragons.
As expected Rory Best and Ruan Pienaar are both included on the matchday squad, making their return via the bench after the Rugby World Cup.
Andrew Trimble and Louis Ludik are both ruled out with injury - although the former is expected to be fit to face Oyonnaux in the opening European Champions Cup match the following weekend.
Rory Scholes gets the opportunity to start again in Trimble’s absence with Peter Nelson retaining the fullback’s jersey.
The surprise selection in the backline features Sammy Arnold on the other wing - Craig Gilroy on the bench.
Kiss had indicated earlier this week that the management would consider their options ahead of the Europe starting giving the return of players from World Cup, the injury profile and the number of games some players had already under their belts.
Ballymena’s Stephen Mulholland’s selection in the backrow is another eyebrow raiser.
The rookie number 8 will make his first competitive start for the Province.
Mulholland comes in for Nick Williams, while Robbie Diack will start at blindside for Roger Wilson.
Diack returns to the side having recovered from a muscle tear in his thigh sustained against Treviso a month ago.
Both Wilson and Williams are understood to be rotated.
The other change up front sees Kyle McCall come in for Andy Warwick.
Tomorrow’s game is an almost must win fixture in Newport given that Ulster have already lost three PRO12 games this season.
The poor away form is something Ulster are aware off, but Kiss said it was not something to get hung up over.
“Although I have just come in, I have an idea and some thoughts on it. This weekend is a great opportunity for me to have a look and perhaps find a solution,” he said.
ULSTER: Peter Nelson, Rory Scholes, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Sammy Arnold, Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; (1-8) Kyle McCall, Rob Herring (captain), Wiehahn Herbst, Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Stephen Mulholland.
Replacements (16-23): Rory Best, Ricky Lutton, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson, Sean Reidy, Ruan Pienaar, Ian Humphreys, Craig Gilroy.