Two former champions go head-to-head for the opener at Ravenhill when 1999 winners Ulster face the previous year’s victors Bath.

There is a feel-good factor around the Irish province and Belfast in recent weeks following the shock away win at the Ospreys in the Magners League and the return to action of Lions flanker Stephen Ferris.

Bath suffered a close-season full of troubles and have stuttered in their early games in the Guinness Premiership.

But new summer signings Nicky Little, Dave Wilson and Ben Skirving will be looking to impress coach Sean Meehan and help last season’s quarter-finals achieve the same feat again.

Ulster Head Coach Brian McLaughlin has named a virtually unchanged line-up, from the starting XV who gained victory at Ravenhill last weekend. The only change is in the pack, and sees Nigel Brady start as the replacement hooker, while Andy Kyriacou starts at No2.

Paddy Wallace will once again Captain the side in Rory Bests’ absence. As per Heineken Cup rules the replacements bench includes a third prop.

Commenting on what he is expecting on Friday night, Ulster Coach Brian McLaughlin said: “We have got to raise our performance. You have to remember that in the Heineken Cup all of the teams are upping their game, aiming to play better and really wanting to get results. So it’s an opportunity for us to see exactly how far we have travelled.

“You look at the tournament and the teams you are coming up against and it’s obvious it’s a ferocious competition; there’s not one bad team in it. All of the games are going to be tough.

“It’s also seen as being just one step below international rugby, so Friday night is a great opportunity for our players to go out and show just how capable they are and how far they have come.

“And it’s good for us as a management team to see them play at that level; it helps us gauge how far they have progressed and where they still have to go.

“We’re very keen to show that we can play good rugby, though in doing that we also have to be aware of the quality of the opposition and the need to play accordingly.”