The DAM Health Stadium is sold out for what is likely to be the biggest threat so far to the team’s unbeaten home record in competitive games this season.
WP Nel, the experienced prop, returns from suspension to start at tighthead and there are also starts for Luke Crosbie in the back row and Damien Hoyland on the wing after long injury lay-offs for the pair.
Edinburgh are further bolstered by recalls for Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Hodgson, Magnus Bradbury, Ben Vellacott, James Lang and Emiliano Boffelli who all sat out last week’s rather patchy win over Zebre Parma.
On the debit side, on-form winger Ramiro Moyano misses out with an arm injury and Glen Young is also out after a training-ground knock.
Mike Blair is particularly pleased to welcome back Crosbie, who has been out since January with a lower leg injury.
“He was playing some really good rugby at the start of the season,” said the Edinburgh coach.
“He kind of embodied what we wanted to do in terms of our physicality and work-rate around the pitch. He was absolutely gutted with his injury, as were we, and certainly in terms of the length of it.
“He was kind of within touching distance of coming back a couple of weeks ago but had a little setback. But we’re really comfortable now that he’s managed to get through a good amount of training and he’s in a good position to start for us.”
Ulster have lost their last three URC games – to Munster, Bulls and Stormers – and also went down at home to Toulouse in the Champions Cup after defeating the French side in the first leg in France, but Blair is wary about opponents Edinburgh have not beaten since 2018.
“It’s not as if they’ve lost against poor quality teams, is it?” he said. “They’ve still played some great rugby. They are a really strong team and there’s a lot of cohesion around their squad.”
Marshall Sykes, the Edinburgh lock, is out as he begins a three-game suspension following his red card against Zebre.