Hunting for their first Magners League victory of the season, Ulster venture to the Arms Park tonight to take on the Cardiff Blues determined to improve their poor away form – they have won just once on the road since April 2007.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 12
CARDIFF BLUES v ULSTER, Arms Park, 7.05pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/BBC Wales)
Team News: Matt Williams has named his side to travel to Cardiff to take on the Blues at the Arms Park on Friday.
The starting line-up sees only two changes to the side that was defeated by the Scarlets last Friday at Ravenhill.
Italian lock Carlo Del Fava picked up a neck injury in the opening game of the league, so Ireland ‘A’ international Ryan Caldwell claims the number 4 jersey and will partner new recruit Ed O’Donoghue.
In the back row, Kieron Dawson drops to the bench to allow promising player David Pollock to start alongside Matt McCullough and Robbie Diack.
Versatile back rower Thomas Anderson has been named in the squad and having played second row at Irish schools level, he could cover both the back row and the second row if needed.
This is Ulster’s first away trip of the 2008/09 season and assistant coach Steve Williams will be hoping that his side can put in a big performance against the Blues.
“They are a strong side, they played well against Leinster at the weekend and we are expecting a strong challenge, but our lads know what we have to do,” Williams said.
“We have some very experienced players in our side who know what it is like to play away in Wales and they are hungry to come away with a win.”
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues boss David Young has made nine changes to the team that lost 32-10 to the Ospreys on Tuesday night.
Former Wales captain Gareth Thomas comes in to make his first league appearance of the season, replacing the powerfully-built Jamie Roberts in midfield.
Gethin Jenkins and team captain Paul Tito, both used as replacements last time out, return to a pack which includes a completely new back row unit in Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams and Mark Lewis.
Nicky Robinson replaces Ceri Sweeney at out-half, with young scrum half Darren Allinson keeping Jason Spice out of the team. Wales Under-20 international Leigh Halfpenny is another new inclusion on the right wing.
Cardiff’s players will be wearing pink jerseys for Friday’s game to highlight the Welsh region’s nominated charity this season, Cancer Research Wales.
CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Robinson, Gareth Thomas, Chris Czekaj; Nicky Robinson, Darren Allinson; Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Thomas, Gary Powell, Bradley Davies, Paul Tito (capt), Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Mark Lewis.
Replacements: John Yapp, Gareth Williams, Scott Morgan, Andy Powell, Jason Spice, Ceri Sweeney, Jamie Roberts.
ULSTER: Clinton Schifcofske; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Rob Dewey, Timoci Nagusa; Paddy Wallace, lsaac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Ryan Caldwell, Ed O’Donoghue, Matt McCullough, David Pollock, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Tom Court, Kieron Dawson, Thomas Anderson, Cillian Willis, Niall O’Connor, Bryn Cunningham.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Touch Judges: Hugh Watkins, Steve Edwards (both Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Say What: Matt Williams (Ulster) – “Last year we were the worst offending team in terms of penalties conceded and in terms of missed tackles. If you miss tackles and give away too many penalties in any competition, you are not going to do it.
“But we are fronting it up. It is just like winning away from home. This week we have got to win away from home and all those things are purely mental, they aren’t skill factors. Just mental and attitude issues and these are easily solved.
“We have already cut our penalty count in half from some of the games last season but it has to come down further.
“We shouldn’t have given away more than four penalties against the Scarlets and when you are on the way up as a team, and physically not as big, you can’t give the opposition the ball that we gave them and expect to win.”
David Young (Cardiff Blues) – “I’ve no doubt it will be another difficult game for us against quality opposition. Ulster are an improving team and a hungry team.
“The Scarlets went over to Belfast last week and won, so I’m sure they will come over to Cardiff breathing fire. They have a lot of quality players in key positions and also won the League in 2006.
“They will also be a lot fresher than us, having only played one match, but I’m not offering that as an excuse.
“We were all very disappointed after our last two games, but there were some positives from both matches.
“We did a lot of things to put us in a position to dominate the game and win the territory but we know we have to be far more clinical to win these types of games.
“We have to show a bit of character in Friday’s match, but equally importantly, we have to show purpose in the way we play. Home games are paramount to us and we have to make sure we get the right result.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair 11; Ulster: Clinton Schifcofske 9; Tries: Cardiff Blues: Aled Brew 1; Ulster: -.
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Saturday, April 19, 2008 – Cardiff Blues 30 Ulster 17, Arms Park
Friday, May 9, 2008 – Ulster 17 Cardiff Blues 26, Ravenhill
– The Cardiff Blues lost 32-10 away to the Ospreys on Tuesday. The Blues have been defeated just once at the Arms Park in their last eleven encounters in all competitions – 11-10 to Edinburgh in the Magners League on January 4 last
– The last Irish side to win at the Arms Park was Leinster, 30-19, on September 28, 2007
– Ulster have suffered three straight defeats in the Magners League and have won just once on the road since April 2007 – 30-13 at Connacht on November 23 last
– The Ulstermen have not won in Wales since a 32-25 victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on September 9, 2006
– Cardiff have won their last three meetings with Ulster, while the Irish province’s last win at the Arms Park was a 25-22 success on September 9, 2005