The Six Nations may take precedence, but the Vodacom URC match will be keenly watched by all sides in the competition, especially as both teams have shown good form of late.

There has been plenty of war talk between the two sides, especially after Ulster’s big loss to their western neighbours in October, when Connacht turned up at the Aviva Stadium to win 36-11 and claim a massive scalp.

But things might not be so easy at Kingspan this time around. For one, Duane Vermeulen will be among the Ulster forwards and is key to their momentum, while the Northern Irish side have won their last six matches in Belfast since Connacht were last there in April 2021.

On that occasion Connacht won 26-24 and Ulster have won only once against Irish opposition when they shocked Leinster in round six.

That said, Connacht have not won an away match since they prevailed at Munster in May and are on a three-match losing run in all competitions. They have also not won back-to-back matches in Belfast since 1960.

Ulster have a 27-10 advantage in the head-to-head record between the sides, but Connacht have won six of the last nine meetings, including that 36-11 victory in Dublin earlier this season.

Another headache is the way they were beaten 42-20 at home by second-placed Glasgow Warriors last weekend, something Connacht club captain Jarrad Butler feels they need to respond to urgently.

“If we play like we did last week, we’ll be beaten up by a really good Ulster side,” Butler told the Irish Times.

“It’s a massive challenge, exactly what we need to bounce back from last week and a couple of close games before that. We need to get back in the winner’s circle and Ulster is the perfect opposition for that.”

A lot of the concentration has been on physicality this week for Connacht: “It was tough to watch, tough to be involved in, and tough having to review that. The coaches didn’t beat around the bush and neither did the playing group.

“It was good and it was warranted because we needed a good kick up the rear end. You don’t want to reflect too much on the previous week, but you have to, and we need to be better than that, or at least not put ourselves in that position again.

“If you do not acknowledge it, you are doing yourselves a massive disservice. If we play like that, we will be eaten by a really good Ulster side, so we need to have a reaction,” added Butler, who wants his side to make a statement in Belfast.

“You need to turn up and I think we will. We will get that reaction. It’s an interpro, it’s a really important game for us in the context of trying to put ourselves in a strong position on the URC table, so there are many reasons we need to perform. Regardless of the six-day turnaround or what happened previously, we need a big performance.”

The inevitable response came from Ulster lock Alan O’Connor, who said he believed they owed Connacht “one, or two…or three”, and would be up for the game this weekend.

“Playing against Connacht is always fun in all the right ways,” the lock laughed as he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“And they will be coming up to take our scalp. We let ourselves down at the Aviva earlier on in the season and they also beat us here in the Kingspan last year.

“We definitely owe them one, or two, or three. We need to get our mindset right and we’re looking forward to the physical battle.”

The game was rescheduled after the original fixture was called off because of COVID outbreaks in both sides, and will kick off at 22h15 (live on SuperSport).