Still winless this season, they host Nottingham in today’s final Championship Cup pool game at West Park Leeds.
Fly-half Ford had originally planned to leave himself and some other key players out to keep them right for the return to league action where they desperately need points fast.
But the ex-Leicester Tigers ace has now named himself in one of six changes to the side that lost 54-5 at Cornish Pirates last weekend.
Former England winger Tom Varndell is also back, while centre Joel Matavesi re-joins from Newcastle Falcons on loan to complete the back line.
“We thought we’d probably need to get what we perceive as our strongest team to pick from so we can spend a bit of time together,” explained Ford.
“We decided that was the best way forward really so we can get going this weekend - and not get caught cold next Sunday.”
Carnegie also lost 54-14 against London Scottish the previous week but Ford maintains the Cup competition has been worthwhile for improving his squad.
“Although the scoreline didn‘t suggest it, there were a lot of positives at Cornish,” he said. “The set-piece was probably the best it’s been all season and some young lads have really stepped up. For sure, it has been worthwhile.”
Carnegie have received some positive news after it was revealed captain Ben Sowrey’s injury is not as bad as first feared.
“Ben did his knee at Cornish and we thought it was his ACL at first and season-ending,” added Ford. “But it’s not as bad as we thought and he could be back in a couple of months.”
Ford’s return allows Dan Lancaster - at his community club - to revert to centre with James Robins starting on the bench this week.
James Elliott comes in at scrum-half with Joe Green missing out.
Up front, Conor Davidson starts at loosehead having come on as a replacement last week and Adam Brown comes in for Sowrey.
On the bench, Guy Graham returns from Newcastle Falcons, Sione Falatau is back and Matt Garvey has arrived on loan from Bath.
Doncaster can make the last eight if they win at Hartpury.
Tighthead Colin Quigley and centre Jack Roberts both return to Clive Griffiths’ squad.
George Edgson, Lloyd Hayes, Tyson Lewis and Marc Thomas are also all back in the starting side as Knights look for the victory they need.