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Magners Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ulster

Magners Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ulster

After their battling win over Connacht last weekend, Ulster will strive for back-to-back Magners League victories this Saturday. However, the province’s poor away form could count against them at the Arms Park.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, April 19

CARDIFF BLUES v ULSTER, Arms Park, 5.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)

Team News: For Ulster’s last away game this season, coach Matt Williams has stuck to his policy of blooding young players away from home and has made six personnel changes to the side that defeated Connacht at Ravenhill last week.

With Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best ruled out with a groin injury, former Ireland international Kieron Dawson takes up the captain’s role.

Nigel Brady replaces Best as hooker with Stuart Philpott named on the replacements bench alongside Neil Best, who will act as back row cover for Matt McCullough, Dawson and Roger Wilson.

Ryan Caldwell and Carlo Del Fava make up the second row with fans’ favourite Justin Harrison named as a replacement.

Former Belfast High pupil Mark McCrea will make his first start at full back for his province and is among three changes in the back-line.

Paddy Wallace is omitted from the squad with Scotland international Rob Dewey forming a centre partnership with Andrew Trimble.

Isaac Boss is named on the bench with Paul Marshall starting at scrum half. Ulster ‘A’ centre Darren Cave will also be on bench duty, along with experienced Kiwi Paul Steinmetz.

Meanwhile, for the visit of Ulster, the Blues welcome back Jamie Roberts and Gethin Jenkins back into their team, after the pair recovered from minor ankle injuries picked up in the Heineken Cup match against Toulouse.

However, Xavier Rush is not selected having had problems with a bicep muscle in his right arm.

Jamie Robinson is also out for approximately two to three weeks having suffered a groin injury in the win against the Scarlets.

Both players will have scans this week to see the extend of the damage.

CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin, Gareth Thomas, Tom James; Nicky Robinson, Richie Rees; Gethin Jenkins, Gareth Williams, Taufa’ao Filise, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito, Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Mark Lewis (capt).

Replacements: Gary Powell, Rhys Thomas, Scott Morgan, Ben White, Jason Spice, Dai Flanagan, Marc Stcherbina.

ULSTER: Mark McCrea; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Rob Dewey, Mark Bartholomeusz; Niall O’Connor, Paul Marshall; Justin Fitzpatrick, Nigel Brady, Tom Court, Carlo Del Fava, Ryan Caldwell, Matt McCullough, Kieron Dawson (capt), Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Stuart Philpott, Bryan Young, Justin Harrison, Neil Best, Isaac Boss, Paul Steinmetz, Darren Cave.

Referee: Andrew Macpherson (Scotland)

Say What: David Young (Cardiff Blues) – “Ulster are always a very abrasive side, very physical and offer big challenges in the scrum and lineout.

“They have a lot of big ball carriers, so our defence will have to be a lot better than last weekend. They are on an upward curve under Matt Williams, who has steadied the ship and moved them forward.

“They have quality players in Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace.

“They are an experienced team with a lot of stars and I believe that where they are in the league at the moment isn’t where they should be and want to be. So it will be a big challenge for us.”

Matt Williams (Ulster) – “Our away record is not what we want and except and we are going to address that and take it on as a task but we’re not going to stop blooding our young guys because they’re learning about being away from home.

“It is hard rugby, high pressure rugby and if you make an error you get punished. But it is great to give young guys the opportunity as well.

“They are going to be here next season and taking Ulster forward. There will be tough situations during that time and at least if they have the experience of what it is like in tough environments then that will bode them well.

“We will be giving some of the boys a chance. Not all of them. If we put out 10 (youngsters), then that is not healthy.

“But it we put out three or four starting and two or three on the bench here or there, it will give them time and experience.

“That is what they crave and that is what they will get. We must look ahead and plan for the future.”

Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair 63; Ulster: Niall O’Connor 47; Tries: Cardiff Blues: Tom James 8; Ulster: Tommy Bowe, Simon Danielli, Isaac Boss, Kieron Dawson, Tom Court, Matt McCullough 2 each.


Friday, October 21, 2003 – Ulster 32 Cardiff Blues 7, Ravenhill
Saturday, April 3, 2004 – Cardiff Blues 19 Ulster 15, Arms Park
Friday, November 19, 2004 – Ulster 30 Cardiff Blues 14, Ravenhill
Friday, April 8, 2005 – Cardiff Blues 22 Ulster 8, Arms Park
Friday, September 9, 2005 – Cardiff Blues 22 Ulster 25, Arms Park
Friday, May 5, 2006 – Ulster 26 Cardiff Blues 17, Ravenhill
Saturday, October 14, 2006 – Ulster 32 Cardiff Blues 12, Ravenhill
Friday, April 20, 2007 – Cardiff Blues 20 Ulster 17, Arms Park


– The Cardiff Blues have won eight of their last nine matches at the Arms Park in all competitions since September

– The Blues have only lost once at home to an Irish side in the Magners League since November 2005. That was a 30-19 defeat to Leinster last September

– Ulster have won just once on the road this season – 30-13 at Connacht in the Magners League on November 23

– Ulster have lost on their last eight visits to Wales, and have won only once at the Arms Park since January 2003 – they were 25-22 victors there in the Magners League on September 9, 2005