Pro14: Ulster v Scarlets (Sat)
|Guinness Pro14: Ulster v Scarlets|
|Venue: Kingspan Stadium Date: Sat, 1 September Kick-off: 17:15 BST|
|Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio Ulster and coverage on the BBC Sport website|
South African flanker Marcell Coetzee will make his long-awaited return for Ulster in their Pro14 opener against Scarlets on Saturday.
New Australian signing Henry Speight will make his debut on the wing and is joined in the backline by fellow new arrivals Will Addison and Billy Burns.
Scarlets start with Scotland’s Sam Hidalgo-Clyne ahead of Wales’ Gareth Davies at scrum-half.
New recruits Clayton Blommetjies and Blade Thomson make their first starts.
British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies plays his first competitive game since November 2017, after returning from injury in the pre-season defeat against Bath last weekend.
But last season’s beaten finalists have 14 players injured, including Wales pair Leigh Halfpenny and Samson Lee.
Ulster’s Coetzee hasn’t played since last October and has only played five games for them since joining in 2016.
With Rory Best still injured, second row Alan O’Connor will captain Ulster for what will be new coach Dan McFarland’s first game in charge after his arrival in Belfast from his role as Scotland assistant coach.
Ireland internationals John Cooney and Iain Henderson start after missing both pre-season fixtures, but Marty Moore (calf) and Kyle McCall (elbow) picked up injuries in training and are unavailable.
Cooney and Burns are paired in the half back positions for the first time, while Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave will provide a familiar look to the midfield.
McFarland has said Saturday’s match will be a good opportunity for him to assess how his new squad is developing after a series of new arrivals during the summer followed the departure of experienced players such as Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe.
As well as Halfpenny and Lee, Scarlets are also without new South Africa signing Uzair Cassiem who is expected to be out for four weeks with a calf injury.
The trio join Paul Asquith, Jake Ball, Will Boyde, Angus O’Brian, Dylan Evans, Jonathan Evans, Wyn Jones, Johnny McNicholl, Hadleigh Parkes, Lewis Rawlins and Aaron Shingler on the sidelines.
Scarlets are the only Welsh region to have beaten Ulster in Belfast since February 2013, doing so with a single point victory in February 2016.
Ulster: Addison; Gilroy, Cave, McCloskey, Speight; Burns, Cooney; Warwick, Andrew, O’Toole, O’Connor (captain), Henderson, Coetzee, Reidy, Timoney.
Replacements: A McBurney, E O’Sullivan, R Kane, K Treadwell, C Henry, D Shanahan, A Curtis, A Kernohan.
Scarlets: Blommetjies; Prydie, Davies, Fonotia, S Evans; Patchell, Hidalgo-Clyne; Evans, Owens (capt), Kruger, Bulbring, Cummins, Thomson, Davies, Macleod.
Replacements: Elias, Price, Gardiner, Kennedy, Davis, Davies, Jones, Nicholas.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (FIR), John Carvill (IRFU)
TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU)