With Rory Best’s very able deputy Rob Herring keeping the busy medical room on their toes, it means a rare start for Ballymena-born John Andrew, younger brother of former Ulster flyer Richard.
The 24-year-old Andrew has had to be content with learning his trade at club and Ulster A level, and will pick up just his eighth cap. Whenever he has been called upon, the lively hooker has not let the side down.
“I got a couple of starts last year at around the same time during the Six Nations when Rory was away and Rob also had a knock back then too. So I’m really looking forward to getting back out again from the beginning,” he said.
“Individually, it’s a time when a few of us look to get more game time when the internationals are away. I didn’t know that Rob wouldn’t be fit but he’s unfortunately picked up a knock and that’s the way you get a chance in this game.
“Someone picks up a knock and you have to go out and perform and do so to the best of your ability and then you can give the coaches a bit of a selection headache when everyone’s fit,” explains Andrew, who is well aware of Edinburgh’s set-piece strength.
“We do a lot of analysis on every team but we know that Edinburgh are a big and physical pack. We’ve been working on our ourselves and we know if we perform to at our best, we can give them a real go in the scrums.”
Ulster are on a four-game losing streak and Andrew knows Les Kiss’s side must take this opportunity to pull out of their current rut.
“I think in those games, there have been patches where we’ve played okay and then there has been patches where we’ve been very ordinary, or worse.
In this block of games, during the Six Nations, we’re just trying to get a bit of momentum back.”