Gloucester make only their second visit to Belfast despite both team’s long history in the Heineken Cup.

The Cherry & Whites went down 14-12 at Ravenhill in 2005 just months after inflicting Ulster’s second heaviest defeat in the competition, winning 55-13 at Kingsholm.

Both sides have recruited heavily during the summer after disappointing campaigns last season.

Gloucester have brought in the likes of British Lion Gareth Cooper and rugby league convert Lesley Vainikolo to boost their away form having lost three of their last four.

Ulster have also brought in new blood, including Scotland pair Rob Dewey and Simon Danielli, as they bid to reach the knock-out stage for the first time since lifting the cup in 1999.

Lesley Vainikolo will start his first game since the end of September when he returns to the wing for Gloucester this weekend.

The giant winger, who scored five tries on his Guinness Premiership debut against Leeds, has recovered from a muscle problem in his neck and will line-up in a back-three alongside James Simpson-Daniel and full-back Iain Balshaw.

“The Heineken Cup is one of the reasons I am at Gloucester – I cannot wait for it,” Vainikolo said. “I am feeling good – the medics have done their stuff – and now I just want to get back onto the field and get the ball in my hands.

“I have missed not being around the boys but the atmosphere is great and we are looking forward to the game. The Heineken Cup is a massive competition, Ravenhill has a fantastic reputation and it will be a huge experience.”

Vainikolo returned to action with 25 minutes from the bench against Wasps in the EDF Energy Cup last weekend and there is another change in Dean Ryan’s backline – Mike Tindall returns to the centre alongside Anthony Allen following soreness in his leg.

The half-back combination of Rory Lawson and Ryan Lamb remains intact, while Olly Morgan moves to the bench.

Ryan’s forward pack also remains unchanged from the one that took on Wasps, which means Peter Buxton will skipper the side from the second row alongside Alex Brown.

Loose-head prop Nick Wood, hooker Olivier Azam and tight-head Carlos Nieto form the front row, while Alasdair Strokosch, Akapusi Qera and Luke Narraway form the back row.

Marco Bortolami, who missed the game at Adams Park with a shoulder injury, returns to the 22.

“We are selecting from a position of strength and although the turn-around in terms of preparation time is short, we are comfortable where we are,” Ryan said.

“Some of the rugby we played against Wasps was some of the best we have played for a long time and even though we lost, we are not allowing ourselves to be too disappointed because of the level of our performance in many areas.

“We stacked up physically and were a genuine threat when in possession. We obviously didn’t close the game out which was disappointing but we are not going to beat ourselves up about it because of the good things we did.

“We are relishing this contest – it is where the club wants to be in the long-term and why we finished top of the Premiership last season. It is up to us now to carry it forward.”

Alongside Bortolami, Gloucester’s other forward replacements are hooker Andy Titterrell, prop Christian Califano and number eight Gareth Delve.