Craig Gilroy, Paul Marshall and Luke Marshall have been left in reserve for Ulster for their vital Heineken Cup Pool 4 clash against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday.

The team has a total of eight personnel changes and one positional switch from their last outing.

Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Wallace and Jared Payne have been included at scrum-half, inside centre and full-back respectively.

Tommy Bowe, who was on bench duty last weekend, will line out on the right wing for his 50th Heineken Cup appearance.

That means Andrew Trimble switches to the left at the expense of new Ireland cap Gilroy.

Paddy Jackson (fly-half) and Darren Cave (outside centre) retain their places in the backline.

Up front, Ireland internationals Rory Best and Tom Court replace Rob Herring and Callum Black in the front row alongside John Afoa, while captain Johann Muller is joined in the second row by regular partner Dan Tuohy.

Loose forwards Iain Henderson, Chris Henry and Roger Wilson are in the side and Ulster also have the luxury of having the impact of Nick Williams off the bench.

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe admitted he agonised over the selection: "There were some difficult decisions but that’s what you want. The guys who have missed out this week have been outstandingly positive and that’s very pleasing.

"They have a strong pack and they build their game around that. They don’t hide from that fact and they’re confident in it. Their set piece is very strong and we’ve got to be excited about meeting that front on. We’ve got to conquer them up front if we’re going to compete because you’ve got to have front foot ball.

"The tight five have to step up and show their qualities, but I’m confident in them, they’ve all played international rugby."

Ulster team to face Northampton Saints, Heineken Cup, Friday 7th December, Franklin’s Gardens (8.00pm):

J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, R Pienaar;

T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (c), D Tuohy, I Henderson, C Henry, R Wilson.

Replacements: N Brady, C Black, R Lutton, R Diack, N Williams, P Marshall, L Marshall, C Gilroy.