RETURNING to URC action is exactly what Ulster Rugby needs following the dismissal of Dan McFarland as head coach and they will do just that when hosting Dragons at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening (7.35pm, live on Viaplay).

McFarland's departure after their defeat on the road to Ospreys a fortnight ago has dominated the headlines, so with Dan Soper stepping into the breach until Richie Murphy takes the reins on an interim basis at the conclusion of the U20 Six Nations, the objective will be to return to winning ways and put some smiles back on faces.

Undoubtedly, it is an unsettling time for all at the club as results in Europe and that loss in Wales two weeks ago culminated in McFarland's departure, and the best response will be to get their season back on track.

Currently, Ulster are eighth in the URC standings but a bonus point win on Saturday could see them rise to as high as fourth, which would put a much better look on things heading into the run to the playoffs.

Things have not been much better for this weekend's opposition that is on its own three-game run of defeats in all competitions and they arrive in Belfast second from bottom in the standings.

Both sides last tasted victory on New Year's Day with Ulster winning at the RDS against Leinster, while it was also derby delight for Dragons who come through against Scarlets.

The last meeting between the sides occurred last April with Ulster running in six tries on their way to a bonus point victory and more of the same would be most welcome by the home support.

James Hume will captain Ulster for the first time and he will be paired with Jude Postlethwaite at centre.

Springbok and double Rugby World Cup winner, Steven Kitshoff, starts at loosehead prop and is joined by hooker, Tom Stewart, and fellow prop, Tom O’Toole, who returns to the team for the first time since being called up to Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell’s Guinness Six Nations squad.

The second row sees young talents Cormac Izuchukwu and Harry Sheridan come together as the two locks.

The back row is unchanged from last time out against Ospreys, with David McCann, Marcus Rea and Nick Timoney retaining their places.

Ulster opts for the experienced half-back partnership of John Cooney and Billy Burns.
Academy products, Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy, start on the right and left wing respectively. Will Addison completes the back field as he starts at full-back.

The bench sees a welcome return to action for lock, Kieran Treadwell, who returns after an injury sustained against Harlequins in January.