We’re back to domestic action and Dan McFarland has named a strong side to welcome the Dragons to Kingspan Stadium tomorrow night (KO 19:55).

Academy prospect and Irish 7s player Robert Baloucoune will make his debut, while Ulster hang on to Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jordi Murphy for another week.

Only one change has been made to the front row as Eric O’Sullivan comes in for Andrew Warwick who has started each of the last four matches. Rory Best and Marty Moore continue at hooker and tighthead prop respectively. It’s the same lock pairing as last week with Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell starting their third game together this season. There’s been a bit of a reshuffle in the back row with Sean Reidy replacing Nick Timoney and Marcell Coetzee moving to eight. Reidy starts at blindside flanker.

John Cooney and Billy Burns have been given the night off with Dave Shanahan and Johnny McPhillips filling their spots at half backs. McPhillips will start his first game of the season and Shanahan who has been in decent form of late, will hope it continues. Buoyed by Ireland call ups yesterday, Stuart McCloskey and Will Addison start in the centres. Enniskillen RFC man, Baloucoune on the right wing while Henry Speight returns from injury to start on the left. Michael Lowry remains as Ulster’s full back.

The Dragons have been in a state of flux over the last number of seasons, one that has seen the Italian sides over take them in recent times. Indeed both Benetton Treviso and Zebre finished with more points than the Newport side last season (35 and 16 more points respectively) and they could only muster two wins. Only the Southern Kings won less games.

This season, they’ve been marginally better and have already two wins under their belt against Zebre and the Kings. Against the Kings, they created a lot of opportunities but, a bit like Ulster last week, failed to convert them. With a change in momentum during the game, the Kings pulled the game back but Jackman’s men were able to hang on. At full back, they’ve the pacey Jordan Williams who they signed from Bristol in the off-season and scored a cracking try against Leinster in an earlier round. He will bring a bit of excitement to this game.

Coached by Bernard Jackman, they sent a rotated side to Kingspan and were walloped out the gate but were able to score three tries. Stuart McCloskey scored an early try last year and the Dragons folded like Ikea furniture and Ulster had the try bonus point wrapped up in the first half. I don’t think it will be as comfortable as last season, but an early try should certainly send Ulster on their way to a good victory.

The FRU predicts: An Ulster bonus point win. It’ll probably be close for the first half but I expect Ulster’s class to show and score a few tries in the second half.

Ulster Dragons
Michael Lowry 15 Jordan Williams
Robert Baloucoune 14 Daf Howells
Will Addison 13 Adam Warren
Stuart McCloskey 12 Jarryd Sage
Henry Speight 11 Will Talbot-Davies
Johnny McPhillips 10 Jason Tovey
Dave Shanahan 9 Rhodri Williams
Eric O’Sullivan 1 Brok Harris
Rory Best © 2 Richard Hibbard ©
Marty Moore 3 Lloyd Fairbrother
Iain Henderson 4 Matthew Screech
Kieran Treadwell 5 Lewis Evans
Sean Reidy 6 Huw Taylor
Jordi Murphy 7 Nic Cudd
Marcell Coetzee 8 Harri Keddie
Rob Herring 16 Rhys Lawrence
Andy Warwick 17 Aaron Jarvis
Tom O’Toole 18 Ryan Bevington
Alan O’Connor 19 Joe Davies
Greg Jones 20 Taine Basham
Jonny Stewart 21 Tavis Knoyle
Angus Kernohan 22 Jack Dixon
Craig Gilroy 23 Zane Kirchner

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