Ireland internationals Paddy Wallace and Andrew Trimble could be used as impact substitutes as Ulster look to return to winning ways in the Magners League. Their hosts Cardiff have been a bogey team in recent years for Ulster who are winless against the Blues since October 2006.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, November 21
CARDIFF BLUES (3rd) v ULSTER (7th), Cardiff City Stadium, 3.45pm (live S4C)
Team News: Talented young winger Craig Gilroy has been parachuted into the Ulster team for Sunday’s Magners League meeting with the Cardiff Blues at Cardiff City Stadium.
Gilroy has been in try-scoring form for Dungannon in the All-Ireland League this season, and has also featured regularly for Ulster Ravens in the past year.
Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has now handed the 19-year-old from Bangor a chance to show his wares at senior level, selecting him on the right wing for this weekend’s trip to Cardiff.
The Ulster back-line has been bolstered by the return of Scotland winger Simon Danielli from a shoulder injury, while Paul Marshall comes in at scrum half to replace Ruan Pienaar who is on duty with South Africa.
Pienaar’s fellow Springbok, BJ Botha, has recovered sufficiently from a wrist injury to take his place in the front row.
Ireland international Dan Tuohy joins stand-in captain Johann Muller in the second row, and Willie Faloon makes way in the back row for another of the province’s international contingent, Chris Henry.
In all, McLaughlin has made six personnel changes to the side that started the 16-6 derby defeat to Munster at Ravenhill last time out.
Having missed out on selection for this weekend’s Ireland v New Zealand Test, Paddy Wallace and Andrew Trimble will add to Ulster’s options on the bench.
Among those not available are the international-tied Pienaar, Tom Court, Rory Best and Stephen Ferris, along with the injured Darren Cave, Adam Macklin and Declan Fitzpatrick.
Meanwhile, the Blues welcome back a number of experienced players for this game, with Chris Czekaj, Casey Laulala and Ceri Sweeney returning in the backs. Tom Slater starts at scrum half in place of the injured Lloyd Williams.
In the forwards, there is a new back row with Xavier Rush, Michael Paterson and Ma’ama Molitika starting and Paul Tito captains the side from the second row.
The Blues also welcome back prop Taufa’ao Filise from injury. Rhys Thomas, Cardiff’s top try scorer in this season’s league, also starts at hooker.
Blues director of rugby David Young said: “We’ve had some good results in the Magners League without really playing as well as we would have liked.
“Against Aironi, we put in a very positive performance and the players showed a lot of hurt and determination. So I’d like to think we can start against Ulster where we finished in Italy.
“We played a very simple game-plan that day, but are looking to expand our game with some big matches coming up over the next six to eight weeks.”
CARDIFF BLUES: Chris Czekaj; Richard Mustoe, Casey Laulala, Dafydd Hewitt, Tom James; Ceri Sweeney, Tom Slater; Taufa’ao Filise, Rhys Thomas, Scott Andrews, James Down, Paul Tito (capt), Michael Paterson, Ma’ama Molitika, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Gareth Williams, Tom Davies, Sam Hobbs, Bryn Griffiths, Ben White, Dan Fish, Gareth Davies, Gavin Evans.
ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Craig Gilroy, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Paddy McAllister, Nigel Brady, BJ Botha, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Bryan Young, Jerry Cronin, Tim Barker, Willie Faloon, Ian Porter, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Jones, Sean Brickell (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 2/9; Draw: 22/1; Ulster to win: 11/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Paul Marshall (Ulster) – “It’ll be good to play again. Having watched too much rugby for my liking in the past few weeks, it’ll be nice to get a game.
“You get used to playing – you start to feel comfortable, you start to feel part of things so it’s hard when you’re not selected.
“That (fighting for selection) is the way it has always been for me, maybe getting a couple of games here and there rather than a run in the team.
“And scrum half is a position where you need to be playing regularly to get into your rhythm so that the guys around you know what you’re doing.
“But, at the end of the day, you’re just pleased to play when you can and if that’s the opportunity you get then you just try to do your best and take it.”
David Young (Cardiff Blues) – “Ulster have spent a lot of money and obviously are a team that want to get back to the top where they were a couple of seasons ago.
“They have a strong squad and have picked up a lot of wins this season, so I think it will be a difficult game for us. I don’t think they are burdened with a lot of international withdrawals, so we know we are up against a very strong team.
“They will probably feel it’s a good time to come to Cardiff with so many of our internationals away. Ulster are always strong up front and the players they have brought in have only added to that.
“They also have plenty of flair behind and strike me as a very determined outfit. I’ve been very impressed with the way they play and it will take a good team to beat them.
“They’ve had some good performances and one or two narrow losses as well, but they’ve always been in every game they’ve played.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Cardiff Blues – Points: Dan Parks 55; Tries: Rhys Thomas 3; Ulster – Points: Niall O’Connor 51; Tries: Darren Cave, Ian Whitten 2 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, March 26, 2010 – Cardiff Blues 19 Ulster 9, Cardiff City Stadium
Saturday, April 3, 2010 – Ulster 24 Cardiff Blues 33, Ravenhill
– The Cardiff Blues have lost just one of their last five matches in the Magners League, a 16-10 defeat at home to the Scarlets on October 22
– The Blues have won four of their last five games against Irish opponents
– Ulster have lost their last three games in all competitions, and have not won away from Ravenhill since their trip to Aironi in round 2
– The Blues have won their last seven matches against Ulster since the Ulstermen were 32-12 victors at Ravenhill in October 2006