With Ireland’s under-cooked tight head Declan Fitzpatrick needing game time in the No 3 jersey ahead of next week’s Six Nations clash with France, New Zealand’s World Cup winner and stand-in Ulster captain moves across as Anscombe makes seven changes and two positional switches from last week’s disappointing defeat to Glasgow.
As expected, Paddy Jackson returns to the No 10 jersey and will take over the kicking duties from Ruan Pienaar while Darren Cave, Iain Henderson and Lewis Stevenson also return. Cave partners up-and-coming academy star Stuart Olding in midfield while Andrew Trimble is back on the right wing, with Michael Allen on the left, and Stevenson now partners Dan Tuohy at lock.
Despite missing up to 18 players, Ulster parade a fairly experienced squad and Anscombe hopes that it brings dividends following Treviso’s big 34-10 win against Munster last week.
“It is good to give the guys who are on the periphery of the international team some game time,” he said. “We welcome them back and with the experience that they bring, they will only strengthen our side.
“We have to nail the game tonight. We need a performance that delivers the win. We have not been on our game in recent weeks and it is disappointing. Some boys have not grabbed their chance and that is disappointing.
“This is the last game in the present block of games before a break, so a victory would be good. We have been reeled in. We were 11 points clear, now it’s just three. But these things will happen during a long season. You will not go through a 22-game campaign with a 10-point gap in any competition at this level.
“We would be happy if we led by one point from round one right through.”
ULSTER: R Andrew, A Trimble; D Cave, S Olding, M Allen; P Jackson, R Pienaar; J Afoa, R Herring, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, I Henderson, M McComish, R Diack. Replacements: N Brady, C Black, R Lutton, N McComb, A Birch, P Marshall, N O’Connor, C Cochrane.