The loss of several key Ulster squad members to Six Nations duty has been softened for head coach Mark Anscombe with influential trio Johann Muller, Luke Marshall and Dan Tuohy returning to the squad ahead of Friday’s PRO12 meeting with the Ospreys at Ravenhill (7.05pm).
Centre Marshall’s return to fitness will be of particular interest to Declan Kidney as the Irish medical team continue to assess injuries to both Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls ahead of Sunday’s meeting with England.
Elsewhere in Anscombe’s squad there is a place for Ballymena front row forward Andrew Warwick who is included in the preliminary squad for the first time.
The 21-year-old has previously represented Ulster at Schools’, U20 and Ravens level and may now get an opportunity to line out for the senior side this weekend while Ireland U20 star Stuart Olding has been included among the backs.
Ulster still hold an 11 point gap at the top of the PRO12 league after suffering just one defeat in the opening 13 rounds of the competition; 10-24 away to Munster in December.
Ospreys have now gone four successive matches without a win in all competitions; however in the RaboDirect PRO12 the Welshmen have suffered just one reversal in their last ten encounters.
Ulster have already beaten Ospreys in Swansea in round two this year and are going for a first ever season’s double over the Welsh region.
Nigel Brady, Rob Herring, Niall Annett, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton, Andrew Warwick, Tom Court, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Neil McComb, Johann Muller, Mike McComish Robbie Diack, Ali Birch.
Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Stuart Olding, Paddy Wallace, Luke Marshall, Darren Cave, Michael Allen, Andrew Trimble, Chris Cochrane, Ricky Andrew.