18 May, 15:44
It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.
The Gwent region travel to Ravenhill tonight to take on Alan Solomons' Ulster side, with both sides out of contention for the Cup quarter-finals after suffering at the hands of Stade Francais and Leicester last weekend. The Dragons won the sides' first-round tie at Rodney Parade 24-15.
Given how little rests on the outcome tonight, Ruddock has taken the opportunity to blood Wales Under-21 prop Rhys Thomas. The 117kg frontrower - the heaviest man in the squad - will make his starting debut for the Dragons
Thomas was a regular for Wales in last year's Under-21 World Cup in England, and the only British player to be included in the team of the tournament.
He goes head to head with Springbok Robbie Kempson - a man coach Solomons calls
'the best tighthead in the world'.
'It's a big opportunity for Rhys,' Ruddock said. 'He'll have his hands full against Kempson, but he's a good player and if he wants to play regional rugby he needs to be there doing the business.'
Ruddock has also selected a new halfback partnership, with Rhodri Jones and Craig Warlow making their first starts for more than two months.
'It's in our interests that they get a game under their belts with the Celtic League run-in to come,' Ruddock said.
Tough flanker Jason Forster misses his first game of the season after injuring an ankle during a training session with the Wales squad. Rhys Oakley steps in at blindside flanker in his first start for two months.
Meanwhile, Solomons, who this week received the Belfast Coach of the Year Award, has made one enforced change to the side that narrowly lost to Stade Francais last weekend.
Backrower Neil McMillan has picked up a knee injury and has been replaced by the hugley promising Neil Best, with South African Warren Brosnihan joining the bench. Hooker Matt Sexton's Achilles injury has not recovered in time for him
to be considered.
Ulster: B Cunningham; J Topping, S Mallon, T Howe; D Humphreys, N Doak; R Kempson, P Shields, R Moore, G Longwell, M McCullough, A Ward (capt), N Best, R Wilson.
Replacements: N Brady, S Best, M Mustchin, W Brosnihan, K Campbell, A Larkin, P Wallace.
The Dragons: P Montgomery; N Brew, H Luscombe, A Marinos (capt), B Breeze; C
Warlow, R Jones; R Snow, P Young, R Thomas, I Gough, P Sidoli, R Oakley, J Ringer, M Owen.
Replacements: S Jones, A Black, C Anthony, R Beattie, G Baber, S Winn, S Tuipulotu.