Rob Herring will play his 150th game for Ulster on Saturday after being named to start at hooker against Cardiff Blues (Kingspan Stadium, 3.00pm).
Herring is one of six players involved in Ireland’s unbeaten Autumn Series to return to Dan McFarland’s match day squad: Jordi Murphy, John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey are also set to start, while Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale are included among the replacements.
Herring will be joined in the front row by Andy Warwick and Marty Moore, with Kieran Treadwell and captain Alan O’Connor continuing in the second row.
Murphy’s inclusion at openside flanker means there is a shuffle in the back row with Sean Reidy moving to the other side of the scrum and Marcell Coetzee shifting back to the base.
Cooney, who hasn’t featured for Ulster in six weeks due to a combination of injury and international commitments, is re-instated at scrumhalf and will resume a half-back partnership with Billy Burns.
McCloskey and Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy centre James Hume are paired in midfield, while Henry Speight, Louis Ludik and Hume’s Academy teammate Michael Lowry make up the back three.
Best, Academy prop Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, recent signing Ian Nagle and Nick Timoney are named on the bench as forward reinforcements, with Dave Shanahan, Johnny McPhillips and Stockdale covering the backline.
Ulster: M Lowry; H Speight; J Hume, S McCloskey, L Ludik; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore, A O’Connor (captain), K Treadwell, S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee.
Replacements: R Best, E O’Sullivan, R Kane, I Nagle, N Timoney, D Shanahan, J McPhillips, J Stockdale.
Leo Cullen has named several returning Ireland internationals in his squad to face the Dragons tomorrow (Rodney Parade, 5.15pm).
Hugo Keenan makes his second start after an accomplished first start last weekend at full back in the victory over the Ospreys last Friday, with Adam Byrne again selected on the right wing and Dave Kearney coming into the team on the left.
Conor O'Brien is again selected in the centre but makes the switch to the inside with Jimmy O'Brien coming into the number 13 jersey after making his debut off the bench last week.
It's a new halfback partnership this week with Jamison Gibson-Park coming in and partnering the recently capped Irish international, Ross Byrne.
In the pack, Ed Byrne starts this week after his try-scoring exploits off the bench last week, with James Tracy and Michael Bent again at hooker and tighthead.
Ross Molony and captain Scott Fardy are again selected in the second row and similarly there is no change to the back row with Josh Murphy, Scott Penny and Caelan Doris all retained.
On the bench, Andrew Porter is back involved after a successful Guinness Series while former Blackrock College student Paddy Patterson is in line to make his debut at scrumhalf. Patterson - who only turns 20 today - is in his first year in the Leinster Academy.
Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Adam Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien, Conor O’Brien, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Bent; Ross Molony, Scott Fardy (captain); Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Peter Dooley, Andrew Porter, Mick Kearney, Max Deegan, Paddy Patterson, Ciarán Frawley, Tom Daly.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend has made five changes to his starting team to face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday (3pm Irish time).
Into the side comes hooker Tom McCartney, lock Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle and Robin Copeland in the back row and winger Niyi Adeolokun.
Connacht are aiming to back up their bonus point win over the Southern Kings last week with a second win on their South African tour.
The inclusion of the experienced McCartney sees him join a front row alongside props Denis Buckley and Conor Carey. In the second row, Ultan Dillane joins Thornbury who is set to start his first game since returning from a shoulder injury that he picked up in the win over Scarlets earlier in the season.
In the back-row Copeland at number 8 and Boyle at blindside will line up alongside skipper Jarrad Butler.
Adeolokun is the only change in the backline with his inclusion on the wing. He will be part of a back three that incudes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.
Jack Carty, man-of-the-match last week, continues his half-back partnership with Caolin Blade as do the midfield duo of Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey; Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury; Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Cian Kelleher.
Listen to live coverage of Munster v Edinburgh on RTÉ Radio 1 extra on Friday (7.30pm) and Ulster v Edinburgh on Radio 1's Saturday Sport (3pm)