Return of injured stars to help Ulster rekindle form
Ulster's long injury list eased somewhat ahead of Friday's Pro12 trip to Edinburgh, with skipper Johann Muller and Kiwi duo Jared Payne and Nick Williams back in the mix.
While Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace have season-ending injuries and the full diagnosis of Iain Henderson's ankle injury is not expected to be encouraging, Ruan Pienaar will return next week for the trip to the RDS and Chris Henry, Roger Wilson and Tommy Bowe are recovering well.
There is still a shadow over Luke Marshall, who is undergoing concussion management protocol and it remains to be seen whether he will make the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Twickenham on April 6.
Rory Best and Craig Gilroy are being rested this week, but will be back against Leinster. Andrew Trimble will be on the starting blocks on Friday after confirming he would be staying at Ravenhill for a further two years.
"There were no other options really," said Trimble. "I have played all my rugby here. I have made 155 appearances so far and now I want to be the most capped player at Ulster."
Mark Anscombe is planning to throw half-backs Paddy Jackson and Paul Marshall back into the fray and the coach was full of praise for his young fly-half, whom he believes has had to contend with some unfair criticism during the Six Nations.
"When you play professional sport, the rules aren't fair," said Anscombe. "As a professional, yes you are out there in the public domain and we don't please everyone.
"Some people go after you and others blow smoke. The strong dismiss it, the weak get beaten up by it.
"One of the great hallmarks of Paddy Jackson is that, for a young man, he has shown himself to be very resilient in the way he bounces back.
"What we have to do at Ulster is to give him the surroundings and the environment to feel good about himself and show why he got there in the first place.
"It wasn't that long ago that he took a lot of flak about his goal-kicking, but those last two performances looked fairly sharp to me.
"It's all about getting back in, showing what he can do, feeling confident, controlling the game, running the team, kicking his goals and generally feeling good about himself," added Anscombe, whose team has won only one of its last four games.
"You have to be careful that you don't get too negative. That's the easy way to go. The last four weeks were not good and with injuries and a number of people unavailable it certainly challenged us.
"Guys are coming back and there is a good attitude. The challenge for us now is to get back to the way we started off the season."
SQUAD IN FACTFILE