Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin wants a 'much more focused and determined performance' from his side when they visit Cardiff City Stadium for the first time on Friday. The province faltered badly against the Scarlets last time out, and a win in the Welsh capital could fire them back into the play-off race.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, March 26
CARDIFF BLUES (8th) v ULSTER (7th), Cardiff City Stadium, 7.05pm (live Setanta Sports 1/BBC Wales)
Team News: International trio Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Simon Danielli, who all played in last weekend's RBS 6 Nations match at Croke Park, have been included in Ulster's starting line-up for their Magners League encounter with the Cardiff Blues.
Best returns at hooker, after starting Ireland's final game of the RBS 6 Nations Championship against Scotland.
Ferris is also back from international duty, lining out at blindside flanker alongside David Pollock and Ulster captain Chris Henry.
There are four other changes, with Scottish winger Danielli, half-backs Niall O'Connor and Paul Marshall and lock Dan Tuohy all starting.
Belfast Harlequins and Ireland Under-20 scrum half Michael Heaney could also make his senior bow for Ulster off the replacements bench.
The following players were not considered this week due to injury: Justin Fitzpatrick, Matt McCullough, Cillian Willis, Ian Porter, Adam Macklin, Bryn Cunningham and Willie Faloon.
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues boss David Young has chosen a strong starting line-up to take on Ulster.
Cardiff have six Wales players back in their side, following the completion of the RBS 6 Nations. Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Tom James and Richie Rees return in the backs, while Gethin Jenkins and Martyn Williams are the returning forwards.
Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton have been given some extra time to rest following their exertions with Wales, while Bradley Davies misses out with a head injury.
It will be interesting to note the form of Kiwi number 8 Xavier Rush who will be playing his 100th competitive game for the Blues ahead of his transfer to Ulster in the summer.
"It's going to be a bit of different occasion for me playing against Ulster that's for sure," explained Rush.
"It's not often you end up playing against a team you'll be playing for the following season.
"I know Ulster's forwards will try and give it to me a bit and I'll probably want to prove a few points as well.
"I don't want to go out there and have a shocker, so I'll be doing my best and hopefully put in a pretty good display."
CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Leigh Halfpenny, Casey Laulala, Tom Shanklin, Tom James; Ceri Sweeney, Richie Rees; Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Thomas, Taufa'au Filise, Scott Morgan, Paul Tito (capt), Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Scott Andrews, Andries Pretorius, Ma'ama Molitika, Gareth Cooper, Sam Norton Knight/Dai Flanagan, Dafydd Hewitt.
ULSTER: Jamie Smith; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Simon Danielli; Niall O'Connor, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rory Best, BJ Botha, Dan Tuohy, Ryan Caldwell, Stephen Ferris, David Pollock, Chris Henry (capt).
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Ed O'Donoghue, Robbie Diack, Michael Heaney, Ian Humphreys, Timoci Nagusa.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland) Assistant Referees: Jon Mason, Simon Hodges (both Wales) Television Match Official: Neil Ballard (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power):Cardiff Blues to win: 1/3; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 9/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Brian McLaughlin (Ulster) - "It's a big challenge at Cardiff, especially after the very disappointing display at the Scarlets.
"We're really looking forward to getting ourselves back on track and moving in the right direction.
"We started quite well against the Scarlets, but we just made too many simple schoolboy errors.
"We put ourselves under ferocious pressure from the amount of errors we made, the soft points we gave away and the lack of discipline with regard to the referee.
"The squad all sat down last Friday, which was the first time we were all back together after the internationals although we were missing Paddy, Rory and Stephen.
"We sat down and had a good chat about the Scarlets game, we went through the review of the game and there were a few home truths, there's no doubt about that. After that hopefully we'll see a much more focused and more determined performance this week.
"We've had two good training sessions so far this week, we had a good session on Monday.
"We got everybody back in on Tuesday and we had a good attack session on Tuesday morning. We're building up nicely and we just hope we can go to Cardiff and put up a display that we're proud of.
"This is the first time since Bath we've had everybody available, so we're looking forward to getting over to Cardiff and showing how good a team we really are."
David Young (Cardiff Blues) - "Last season it didn't quite happen for Ulster and they didn't have the year that they normally do. Usually they are quite formidable and are always there or thereabouts in the Magners League.
"During the summer they made a number of changes, both on and off the field, and they've signed a few players to strengthen their squad.
"They have also certainly made a statement of intent with their signings for next season and are going in the right direction.
"They are a very hard team to beat, very dogged up front, with a lot of flair behind, so we know it will be difficult to get the win. However, victory is crucial for us.
"With the rearranged fixtures in the Magners League being played last week, we have a clearer picture of where we are.
"With only five games left in the league, we have pretty much set a standard and a goal that we have to win all five matches, starting with the double header against Ulster."
Top Scorers - 2009/10 Magners League:Cardiff Blues - Points: Ben Blair 107; Tries: Tom James 5; Ulster - Points: Ian Humphreys 98; Tries: Simon Danielli 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, October 14, 2006 - Ulster 32 Cardiff Blues 12, Ravenhill
Friday, April 20, 2007 - Cardiff Blues 20 Ulster 17, Arms Park
Saturday, April 19, 2008 - Cardiff Blues 30 Ulster 17, Arms Park
Friday, May 9, 2008 - Ulster 17 Cardiff Blues 26, Ravenhill
Friday, September 12, 2008 - Cardiff Blues 16 Ulster 15, Arms Park
Friday, April 24, 2009 - Ulster 9 Cardiff Blues 11, Ravenhill
- The Cardiff Blues' only victory in their last four games in the Magners League was a 30-7 triumph over Glasgow Warriors at Firhill Arena on February 19
- The Blues have won just one of their last five encounters with Irish teams, a 21-9 victory over Connacht at Cardiff City Stadium in December
- Ulster have won just one of their last six Magners League matches, a 15-10 success at home to Munster on January 2
- Ulster have not won away from home in the Magners League since a trip to Connacht on September 25
- The Blues have won their last five games against Ulster. The Ulstermen's only previous league victory in Cardiff was a 25-22 triumph at the Arms Park in September 2005
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