Nick Timoney returns from Ireland camp to captain Ulster

Dragons are struggling at the bottom just above Zebre with one win in eight matches

Dragons v Ulster, Rodney Parade 2.00pm (Live Premier Sports)

With Robert Baloucoune, James Hume and Sturat McCloskey in the backline, Ulster's cutting edge won't be lacking on their visit to Rodney Parade. Baloucoune and Hume are back from Ireland camp looking for game time alongside scrumhalf Nathan Doak and pivot Billy Burns, both selected again to start.

Up front Tom O'Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney have also been released by Andy Farrell with Timoney, playing at number 8 and wearing the captain's armband for the first time.

The league leaders face a side with Welsh international Dan Baker making his first start of the season for the Dragons at number 8.

“Playing any of the Irish provinces is hard and Ulster are probably the one that goes under the radar with the headlines of the others. But I think they are a coming force,” said Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan.

“They are well coached, well structured, and incredibly physical. If you can’t compete with that physicality, they’ll blow you off the field.”

Ulster leads Leinster on the table by one point, 36 points to 35, but have played one game more than the Dublin based side. Dragons are struggling at the bottom just above Zebre with one win in eight matches.

Dragons: J Lewis; J Holmes, A Warren, A Owen, R Dyer; S Davies, G Bertranou; G Bateman, T Davies, C Coleman; J Davies, J Maksymiw; H Keddie (Capt), O Griffiths, D Baker. Replacements: TBC, Aki Seiuli, Mesake Doge, Huw Taylor, George Young, Rhodri Williams, Ioan Davies, Will Talbot-Davies.

Ulster: R Lyttle: R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, Ben Moxham; B Burns, N Doak; A Warwick, J Andrew, T O'Toole; K Treadwell, S Carter; D McCann, M Rea, N Timoney (Capt). Replacements: B Roberts, E O'Sullivan, M Moore, C Izuchukwu, M Rea, D Shanahan, I Madigan, S Moore.

Referee: S Berry (SARU)

Verdict: Ulster win

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times