Best back in Ulster mix to lead raid on fortress Murrayfield
Rory Best will return to the Ulster side alongside his Ireland colleague Stephen Ferris for Sunday's crucial Magners League clash with play-off chasing Edinburgh at Murrayfield, where the visitors have not won for four years.
Best, who has recovered from a calf injury, could end up leading the side with current skipper Chris Henry likely to miss the penultimate clash of the campaign due to a family illness.
Ferris, who had a rib injury, will start at blindside and with Henry a major doubt, Robbie Diack stands by to fill in at No 8 with either Willie Faloon or David Pollock at openside.
Although Paddy Wallace is also included in the 26-man squad, there are still major doubts over his fitness due to a thigh strain. A fit-again Jamie Smith will return at full-back after a try-scoring cameo against Glasgow last week with Ian Whitten standing by to replace Wallace at centre.
Following his five-star showing against the Warriors, Paul Marshall looks set to again start at scrum-half with Niall O'Connor his likely half-back partner as coach Brian McLaughlin rotates the No 10 jersey.
With Connacht, who face bottom-side Scarlets this weekend, on 26 points alongside Ulster, a bonus point is the minimum that Ulster will want from Sunday's game before the two go head-to-head at Ravenhill on May 7.
"We are not thinking of the Connacht game, or the consequences," said McLaughlin, who believes Ulster are a better side than their lowly position shows. "Our eyes are only at Murrayfield, and we believe that we can win over there, even though Edinburgh are chasing a top-four slot.
"It's very hard to put our finger on what has happened to the team. We played our best rugby of the season in winning at Bath back in January, but the fact that we failed to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Cup seems to have hit the players harder than we thought.
"But at the end of the day, it is entirely up to them. They know what to do to get that victory. They are talented enough and intelligent enough to know what's at stake.
"Our main problem has been that we have not been able to hold on for the victory in games we should have won. So we have focused on fitness levels and our set pieces.
"We are all very positive heading to face Edinburgh. We have played them quite a few times this season; the last time was at Ravenhill in Europe, where we gained the victory. We will be going to Murrayfield with the belief that we can win.
"Last time we played at Murrayfield we had smashing support behind us, and hopefully the fans will turn out once again as their support means so much, especially away from home."
Squad in factfile