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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Cardiff Blues

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Cardiff Blues

Everything seems to have clicked into gear for Ulster at just the right time as they return to RaboDirect PRO12 action on the back of that outstanding European win in Montpellier. However, their round 6 opponents Cardiff also have an extra pep in their step thanks to last weekend’s hard-earned defeat of Heineken Cup holders Toulon.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, October 25

ULSTER (4th) v CARDIFF BLUES (7th), Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

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Team News: Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe has made two personnel changes and one positional switch for Friday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 match against the Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill.

Jared Payne moves from full-back to outside centre, with Darren Cave selected on the replacement bench. Stuart Olding starts his first game for Ulster in the number 15 jersey.

Up front, Callum Black starts at loosehead prop with Tom Court, who was named in Ireland’s GUINNESS Series squad earlier this week, moving to the bench.

Mike McComish, man-of-the-match for the Ulster Ravens against Jersey last Friday night, is on the bench in place of Iain Henderson who will be out for up to six weeks with a toe injury.

Commenting on his selection at full-back, young Ireland internationl Olding said: “When the team was read out and I wasn’t playing at out-half or centre, I thought that I was going to be on the bench again, but I was really pleased when I learned that I would be starting at full-back.

“It is a position that I really enjoy playing in. I was full-back for the Ireland Under-20s in the Six Nations and the Junior World Championship, so I am very confident there and I am looking forward to tomorrow night’s game.”

Meanwhile, right winger Richard Smith has been handed his first start of the RaboDirect PRO12 season as Cardiff make the trip across to Belfast.

Smith replaces the injured Alex Cuthbert with Blues director of rugby Phil Davies making just two changes to the side that defeated reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulon 19-15 at home last Saturday.

The other change to the starting line-up sees Dafydd Hewitt comes in at centre for Owen Williams, with Cory Allen making the switch to to outside centre.

The pack remains the same and will again be captained by prop Gethin Jenkins in the front row. Taufa’ao Filise and Chris Czekaj return among the replacements.

ULSTER: Stuart Olding; Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Tom Court, John Afoa, Lewis Stevenson, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Michael Allen.

CARDIFF BLUES: Leigh Halfpenny; Richard Smith, Cory Allen, Dafydd Hewitt, Harry Robinson; Rhys Patchell, Lloyd Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Marc Breeze, Scott Andrews, Bradley Davies, Filo Paulo, Josh Navidi, Sam Warburton, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Sam Hobbs, Taufa’ao Filise, Lou Reed, Rory Watts-Jones, Lewis Jones, Gareth Davies, Chris Czekaj.

Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway, Eanna O’Dowd (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 1/12; Draw: 28/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 6/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Neil Doak (Ulster) – “Any side that can turn over the Heineken Cup holders cannot be taken lightly, as Cardiff did against Toulon last week.

“We had two good results in Europe. We have had a few good weeks in all, so we do not want to take our eye off things as we get closer to the autumn break.

“Interestingly this week at one of the squad group meetings, it was the players who had brought up the fact that they needed to stay focused.

“They were talking about the need to be sharp at training and not to be taking anything lightly in the build-up to the game.

“Cardiff were obviously disappointed after losing to Exeter (in round 1 of the Heineken Cup), but then to get a win over the European champions was a huge confidence booster for them.

“They’ve gone through a little bit of restructuring regarding their coaches and they’ve been trying to find their feet again and it’s something we spoke about earlier on that we can’t take anything lightly.

“I think this week is about being properly prepared mentally. We had a disappointing start to the season but we want to finish off as strongly as possible for the autumn break.”

Phil Davies (Cardiff Blues) – “We know what it is like to try and go to Montpellier and get a result so you have got to give them huge credit for that. It was a great performance by Ulster.

“They are an outstanding team with some excellent players. They have got Johann Muller who is a great catalyst for them with Nick Williams. You have John Afoa in the scrum with Rory Best so their platform is really good.

“You then have the half-backs with Ruan Pienaar who navigates them around the field and Paddy Jackson is playing well. They have good finishing power on the wings with Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe. They are a very good team all-round.

“Ravenhill has been redeveloped and it will be a great atmosphere and a sell-out. It will be a great occasion and hopefully a great game.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 53; Tries: Michael Allen 3; Cardiff Blues – Points: Leigh Halfpenny 47; Tries: Alex Cuthbert 3


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
Friday, September 28, 2012 – Cardiff Blues 19 Ulster 48, Arms Park
Friday, May 3, 2013 – Ulster 37 Cardiff Blues 13, Ravenhill


– Ulster are on an impressive run of five successive victories in all competitions

– The Ulstermen’s only reversal at Ravenhill since February came by the narrowest of margins, 13-12, against current RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Glasgow in round 2

– Ulster have won four of their last five contests with Welsh regions, while the only Welsh side to have won at Ravenhill in the last four seasons has been the Ospreys

– Cardiff Blues have won two of their last three fixtures in all competitions, but away from home have not been successful since they visited Murrayfield and beat Edinburgh 17-16 in February

– The Blues have won just one of their last five encounters with Irish provinces: 21-10 against Connacht at the Arms Park in round 2

– Cardiff’s only win in their last six fixtures with Ulster was 21-14 at the Arms Park in February 2012, while they have not been victorious at Ravenhill since April 2010