Marcell Coetzee, John Cooney, Jordi Murphy and Sean Reidy all start in strong squad named to face the Dragons on Sunday afternoon. KO 15:00.
With Herring away on Ireland duty, John Andrew fulfills the role at hooker and Sam Carter captains the side from second row.
Ian Madigan partners Cooney at half back with Rob Lyttle at fullback. With Ludik and Faddes both available this looks like a decided call for Lyttle and Stockdale to concentrate on the No. 15 spot.
A game against the Dragons is one that Ulster should win 9 out of 10 times at Kingspan Stadium. There’s a significant gulf in the budgets of each side and that’s reflected in the final standings between the two teams over the last number of years.
However, Dean Ryan has made a few high profile signings for the region. Jamie Roberts was welcomed back to Welsh domestic rugby for the first time since 2013 and they secured the signature of international player Nick Tompkins for the start of this season. Roberts is on the bench for today’s clash while Tompkins was involved with the Welsh squad last night.
Jonah Holmes joined from Leicester Tigers last season but it’s their youth that catches my eye. In particular, 20 year old Taine Basham, who is due to start and has been a star in this Dragons side, watch out for him pouncing on isolated Ulster carriers today. Basham is widely tipped to have a successful international career with Wales in the future.
Sam Davies is a solid ten with a decent running game that has caused Ulster a few problems in the past when he was with the Ospreys. Rhodri Williams and Davies have made impressive starts to the campaign and guided their side to a bonus point win over Zebre two weeks ago.
Ulster need to be targeting a bonus point win today. I think Dragons will be a lot more competitive than they have been in previous trips to Belfast but I can see Ulster’s star names being the difference between the sides.
I think there will be stages where the Dragons will frustrate Ulster but the home side should have enough to record a bonus point win.The FRU Prediction
Ulster v Dragons Match Details
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – KO 15:00 UK
Live on eir Sport 1, Premier Sports 1, ESPN+ (USA), pro14.tv.
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR, 3rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Chris Busby (both IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
Ulster: Rob Lyttle, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Louis Ludik, Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee. Replacements: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Michael Lowry.
Dragons: Jonah Holmes, Jared Rosser, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (c); Greg Bateman, Richard Hibbard, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Matthew Screech, Harrison Keddie, Taine Basham, Ollie Griffiths. Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Brok Harris, Chris Coleman, Joe Maksymiw, Ben Fry, Tavis Knoyle, Arwel Robson, Jamie Roberts