12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
CARDIFF BLUES (3rd) v ULSTER (5th), Cardiff Arms Park, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC 2 Wales)
Team News: Tommy Bowe will make his hugely-anticipated return to the Ulster team when he lines out on the right wing against the Cardiff Blues in Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Arms Park.
The Arms Park fixture will see Ulster return to action for the first time since Nevin Spence's tragic death and the postponement of their round 4 match against Zebre.
Head coach Mark Anscombe has continued the rotation policy which has served his side so well since the start of his tenure.
The New Zealander has made five personnel changes and a further three positional switches to the team that started the 20-19 home win over Munster two weeks ago.
Bowe will make his seasonal debut in his familiar number 14 jersey, with Andrew Trimble switching to the left wing to accommodate him.
As a result, Michael Allen has moved to outside centre and Darren Cave will don the number 12 jersey worn by Luke Marshall in the opening three matches of the season.
Half-backs Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson and full-back Jared Payne have all retained their starting places from the Munster match.
Up front, regular captain Johann Muller has picked up a slight knock and is replaced in the second row by Neil McComb. Ireland lock Dan Tuohy will make his first appearance of the season after being named alongside McComb in the engine room.
Fellow international Chris Henry will also play for the first time this season, captaining the side from openside flanker in the absence of Muller. Stephen Ferris has been rested, so rising star Iain Henderson joins Henry and Nick Williams in the back row.
An unchanged front row of Tom Court, Nigel Brady and New Zealander John Afoa completes the province's starting line-up.
Paddy Wallace, meanwhile, has overcome a shoulder injury which required surgery and has returned to the matchday squad to cover the out-half and centre positions.
Meanwhile, former Dragon Jason Tovey comes in to make his full debut for the Cardiff Blues as they take on an unbeaten Ulster side.
Tovey replaces teenager Rhys Patchell from the side that started the bonus point triumph over Benetton Treviso, with Harry Robinson and Gavin Evans also returning to the starting back-line.
There are further changes up front with Taufa'ao Filise getting the nod at tighthead prop, James Down replacing Lou Reed in the second row and captain Andries Pretorius resuming at number 8 with Robin Copeland reverting to blindside flanker.
Second row Bradley Davies will make his 100th appearance for the Blues, having been identified at 14 years of age as a future player when the Welsh regions were established. The Welsh international made his Blues debut against Edinburgh in January 2006.
CARDIFF BLUES: Dan Fish; Harry Robinson, Dafydd Hewitt, Jamie Roberts, Tom James; Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams; Nathan Trevett, Andi Kyriacou, Taufa'ao Filise, Bradley Davies, James Down, Robin Copeland, Sam Warburton, Andries Pretorius (capt).
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Campese Ma'afu, Scott Andrews, Lou Reed, Rory Watts-Jones, Rob Lewis, Gareth Davies, Tom Williams.
ULSTER: Jared Payne; Tommy Bowe, Michael Allen, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble; Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Nigel Brady, John Afoa, Neil McComb, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry (capt), Nick Williams.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Mike McComish, Michael Heaney, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens, Ian Davies (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Neil Ballard (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 8/13; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 11/8
Pre-Match Quotes: Mark Anscombe (Ulster) - "We have had time together and time to reflect. There was always going to be a lot of significance to this game but the fact is that we also have a job to do and Nev would have wanted the boys to do that.
"We have got to get on with our work and get back to doing what we did before Nevin's tragic death happened. How will it affect some players? You just don't know.
"They are a strong group and they seem good. I just hope that they are able to get on with what they need to do as individuals and to do what they need to do for the team.
"We are looking at keeping it competitive within the squad. Johann (Muller) had a few niggly injuries so we have decided to rest him and bring Dan in for his first start.
"Neil McComb had a very good pre-season and deserves an opportunity. It's good to have Chris Henry fit again and he will lead the team in Johann's absence and Iain Henderson is a very promising young player so he gets his start at 6.
"Everyone is excited to see Tommy back. He has been training hard but I think we have to be patient with him.
"He hasn't had any rugby since the Six Nations, so the sooner we get him in, get him back up and running, then the quicker that conditioning back into first class rugby can take effect."
Phil Davies (Cardiff Blues) - "Friday I think will be our sternest test against the Heineken Cup finalists. It's going to be Ulster's first game back since the tragic news they received a fortnight ago about Nevin Spence.
"We are paying due respect to the situation Ulster are in and how they feel by matching that emotion and that level of performance. Hopefully we will have a great game as a tribute to a great rugby player and a great Ulsterman.
"Bradley (Davies) was one of the first players to have come through the system at the Blues, playing age grade rugby for Blues North and Under-18s before joining the Blues academy.
"He has gone on to perform consistently for the Blues as well as for Wales and I'm sure it's a big day for him.
"Bradley is one of the stalwarts of the Cardiff Blues and I'd like to congratulate him on reaching a landmark 100 games for the region."
Top Scorers - 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Cardiff Blues - Points: Rhys Patchell 25; Tries: Alex Cuthbert 2; Ulster - Points: Paddy Jackson 23; Tries: Michael Allen, Craig Gilroy, Paul Marshall, Jared Payne 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, March 26, 2010 - Cardiff Blues 19 Ulster 9, Cardiff City Stadium
Saturday, Apil 3, 2010 - Ulster 24 Cardiff Blues 33, Ravenhill
Sunday, November 21, 2010 - Cardiff Blues 15 Ulster 37, Cardiff City Stadium
Friday, February 25, 2011 - Ulster 32 Cardiff Blues 13, Ravenhill
Friday, September 16, 2011 - Ulster 20 Cardiff Blues 3, Ravenhill
Friday, February 17, 2012 - Cardiff Blues 21 Ulster 14, Arms Park
- Cardiff Blues' only defeat in the opening four rounds of this season's RaboDirect PRO12 was 21-19 at home to Edinburgh in round 2
- The Blues have won just two of their last five home games, but have been victorious in their last two home fixtures with Irish provinces
- Ulster return to action following the tragic circumstances of Nevin Spence's death. Their round 4 trip to Parma to face Zebre was postponed until November
- The Ulstermen have won all three of their RaboDirect PRO12 encounters so far this season, while their only defeat in their last five clashes with Welsh regions came in this equivalent fixture last season
|25/10/13||Ulster Rugby||39 - 21||Cardiff Blues||12,948|
|3/5/13||Ulster Rugby||37 - 13||Cardiff Blues||10,700|
|28/9/12||Cardiff Blues||19 - 48||Ulster Rugby||8,217|