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Ulster v Connacht - RaboDirect PRO12 match preview
Table-toppers Ulster host Connacht in an inter-pro derby at Ravenhill in what promises to be an emotional occasion.
The clash will mark Ulster's first home game since the passing of centre Nevin Spence, who was killed along with his brother and their father in a farming tragedy.
Mark Anscombe's side will be aiming to make it five RaboDirect PRO12 wins on the bounce this season having made their best-ever start to a campaign.
Anscombe has made four changes to the starting team. Ireland hooker Rory Best has returned to fitness and will play for his province for the first time since the Heineken Cup final in May. Johann Muller (captain), Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace are all called into the starting XV.
Prop Declan Fitzpatrick had also been called into the starting XV but has since withdrawn after aggravating a medial ligament injury in training on Thursday morning, with John Afoa starting in his place.
Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has made four changes to his starting XV following the 34-6 win over Leinster last time.
Up front, Denis Buckley makes way for Brett Wilkinson as loosehead prop while Ronan Loughney, who last week was called up to the Irish training squad, returns at tighthead.
Elsewhere in the pack, Dave Gannon replaces Eoin McKeon as blindside flanker. Gannon is joined in the back-row by former Ulster flanker Willie Faloon, who will captain Connacht.
There are no changes to the backs with Dan Parks making his second appearance for the province as fly-half. Try scorers from last week Tiernan O'Halloran and Fetu'u Vainikolo start again on the wing while the centre partnership is Eoin Griffin and Dave McSharry.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johan Muller (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court. Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Willie Faloon (capt), 6 Dave Gannon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson. Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Nathan White, 19 John Muldoon, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Mata Fifita.
What they said...
Ulster winger Tommy Bowe
"The first game back at Ravenhill is obviously going to be a fairly emotional match I think for the supporters and for the players and hopefully we'll do Nevin justice."
Connacht head coach Eric Elwood
"We're very proud of the way we played on Friday but the big test now is to ensure we can play like that against Ulster this week and on a regular basis throughout the season."
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 27th February|
|19:35||Ospreys vs Leinster|
|19:35||Ulster vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 28th February|
|19:15||Munster vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Sunday 1st March|
|12:45||Cardiff Blues vs Edinburgh|
|17:00||Zebre vs Dragons|
|17:15||Connacht vs Treviso|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:35||Cardiff Blues vs Connacht|
|19:35||Glasgow Warriors vs Zebre|
|Saturday 7th March|
|14:40||Ospreys vs Munster|
|17:15||Scarlets vs Leinster|
|18:00||Benetton Treviso vs Edinburgh|
|Sunday 8th March|
|16:00||Dragons vs Ulster|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:35||Leinster vs Glasgow|
|19:35||Ulster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 28th March|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Zebre|
|14:40||Scarlets vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Munster vs Connacht|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Cardiff Blues|
|19:35||Benetton Treviso vs Ospreys|
|Saturday 11th April|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Munster|
|TBC||Zebre vs Scarlets|
|14:40||Connacht vs Ulster|
|Sunday 12th April|
|16:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Leinster|
|Friday 24th April|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Zebre|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|Dragons 25 - 30 Connacht|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Glasgow 19 - 16 Ospreys|
|Scarlets 25 - 25 Munster|
|Friday 20th February|
|Edinburgh 17 - 20 Ulster|
|Leinster 29 - 8 Zebre|
|Benetton Treviso 40 - 24 Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Leinster 14 - 16 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Zebre 10 - 54 Glasgow|
|Scarlets 32 - 14 Connacht|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Munster 33 - 16 Cardiff Blues|
|Friday 13th February|
|Edinburgh 24 - 16 Ospreys|
|Ulster 43 - 3 Benetton Treviso|
|Sunday 11th January|
|Ospreys 22 - 11 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Benetton Treviso 20 - 24 Ulster|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Zebre 7 - 31 Munster|
|Cardiff Blues 13 - 22 Leinster|
|Friday 9th January|
|Connacht 13 - 16 Edinburgh|
|Glasgow 22 - 7 Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com