New Zealander Jared Payne is in line to make his Ulster debut against the Cardiff Blues on Friday after being named in the preliminary 29-man squad by head coach Brian McLaughlin.
Jared Payne arrived in Belfast last week and has quickly settled into the squad. The versatile back will offer the Ulster management a few options as he can operate on the wing, at full-back or in the centre.
Speaking to URTV this week, Payne said: “Belfast is an awesome city. The weather hasn’t been the greatest so far, but the people make a city and the people I’ve met so far have been wicked, so it’s been good.
“They’re a good bunch of guys here at Ulster, they’ve all been welcoming and have taken me out to have a look around a bit. They’re a good bunch and hopefully I’ll fit in nice and easy.
“I liked what David (Humphreys) said about Ulster, I met him in South Africa and he really sold it to me. I did my own bit of research myself, talked to people back in New Zealand about what it’s like in Belfast.
“I watched a bit of their rugby on the TV too. All of those things added up and it seemed like a good move.”
He added: “Ulster have a good line-up. From what I’ve seen of them and what David told me, they look to ship the ball and try to play a quicker game of rugby.
“For me, I just want to get my body right and try to get into the starting fifteen, that’ll be the first goal.”
Ulster made it two wins from their opening two games after a hard-fought win over Aironi last weekend. They will now look to repeat last season’s feat of winning their first three games of the campaign.
Ulster have won all eight home matches they have played at Ravenhill in 2011 but will face a stern test of their credentials against an in-form Cardiff side.
The Welsh region sit top of the pile in the RaboDirect PRO12 having brushed aside Edinburgh and Benetton Treviso to register two bonus point wins.
Tickets are still available for this game and can be bough online at www.ulsterrugby.com or by calling 02890493222 (option 2).
Ulster Rugby is reminding supporters that this season ticket zoning and scanning will be in operation at the ground and supporters should check their tickets to ensure that are entering through the correct gate. More details are available here.
Fans coming to the match are also advised to avoid parking along Onslow Parade/Ravenhill Park and Mount Merrion Avenue as traffic control will be in operation.
ULSTER Squad (v Cardiff Blues) – Backs (12): Paul Marshall, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, Ian Whitten, Luke Marshall, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave, Jared Payne, Conor Gaston, Craig Gilroy, Adam D’Arcy.
Forwards (17): Paddy McAllister, Callum Black, Jerry Cronin, Declan Fitzpatrick, Adam Macklin, John Burns, Andi Kyriacou, Nigel Brady, Dan Tuohy, Lewis Stevenson, Tim Barker, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack.