Ulster head coach Dan McFarland accepts it “won’t be the end of the world” if his team slip up and lose a game over the next few weeks.
Currently sitting 11 points behind runaway leaders Leinster and five points ahead of third-placed Cheetahs, Ulster look to be comfortably heading towards a PRO14 play-off place.
After a three-week break they return to action today (Liberty Stadium, 5.15pm, eir Sport) away to the struggling Ospreys, who have lost 15 out of 16 games played in all competitions, so Ulster should maintain their play-off push.
“Leinster are a good chunk ahead of us and we are in a hunt for those two other places,” McFarland said.
Louis Ludik hasn’t played since December after picking up an ankle injury against Connacht and he returns on the left wing with Robert Baloucone, who has rejoined the panel after being brought in to train with the Ireland squad, on the right wing. Matt Faddes is at fullback.
Stuart McCloskey and Billy Burns have been released from Ireland’s Six Nations squad to play while Jack McGrath and Tom O’Toole, who were also in the national camp, are named among the replacements.
Wales and Ospreys centre Owen Watkin returns in the Pro14 against Ulster on Saturday after recovering fully from knee surgery.
Second-row Adam Beard is also named in the starting side after being released by Wales coach Wayne Pivac.
OSPREYS: C Evans; H Dirksen, O Watkin, K Williams, L Morgan; L Price, A Davies; N Smith, S Otten, S Gardiner, A Beard; B Davies, D Lydiate, O Cracknell, G Evans
Replacements: S Parry, G Thomas, G Gajion, L Ashley, S Cross, S Venter, T Thomas-Wheeler, J Hook.
ULSTER: M Faddes; R Baloucone, L Marshall, S McCloskey, L Ludik; B Burns, D Shanahan; E O’Sullivan, A McBurney, M Moore; A O’Connor, K Treadwell; M Rea, S Reidy, M Coetzee
Replacements: J Andrew, J McGrath, T O’Toole, D O’Connor, J Murphy, J Stewart, B Johnston, C Gilroy.
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