Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ulster

Date published: February 26 2016

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Scrum-half Tomos Williams and loosehead prop Brad Thyer will make their first starts in the PRO12 as Cardiff Blues host Ulster on Sunday.

The two Academy products have both impressed in recent league fixtures and have now been given starting spots by head coach Danny Wilson.

There are six changes in total to the team that started the recent clash with Leinster on home soil.

Wales wing Tom James is released from international duty and lines up in a new-look backline.

The starting line-up also features a call-up for Aled Summerhill at outside centre while Dan Fish returns at full-back.

Loosehead prop Thyer gets his chance to shine alongside recalled hooker Matthew Rees in the front-row. Josh Turnbull is again released by Wales to play in the back-row.

The bench includes Kristian Dacey, the final player to be released from the Welsh international set-up for the fixture, and recalls for Lewis Jones, Jarrod Evans and Garyn Smith.

"It’s another crucial home game at a venue where we are always extremely motivated to win," said Wilson.

"We are back in front of our passionate home supporters and we were very disappointed to lose last weekend. We need to bounce back with a win.

"Ulster are a good side, home or away they always perform, and they have depth to their squad, despite international call-ups.

"They are a very dangerous side and they will be motivated by the narrow loss to Scarlets last weekend. Ulster play good open rugby so it should make for an entertaining game.

"Tomos Williams and Brad Thyer have both impressed in recent games and deserve starting positions. We're looking forward to seeing how they both perform from the start of the game."

Meanwhile, Paddy Jackson will captain the Ulster ide and he will be partnered at halfback by influential Springbok scrum-half, Ruan Pienaar.
 
Sammy Arnold and Luke Marshall will start in midfield together for the first time, with Craig Gilroy, Jacob Stockdale and Stuart Olding continuing in the back three.
 
John Andrew, who made his first Ulster start on Sunday, is retained at hooker and is joined in the front row by props Callum Black and Bronson Ross. Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe will combine in the second row.
 
Nick Williams returns from injury to start at number eight, with Robbie Diack and Chris Henry operating as the other loose forwards.
 
Jonny Murphy, a debutant in last week's match against Cardiff, is in line to add a second cap after being named on the bench. Ricky Lutton and Sean Reidy, who both signed contract extensions earlier this week, are also included on the bench along with fellow forwards Kyle McCall and Roger Wilson, who celebrated his 200th cap last time out.
 
The backline replacements are Paul Marshall, Darren Cave and Rory Scholes.

Form: Cardiff Blues have slipped to successive defeats in the Guinness PRO12, at Treviso and at home to Leinster. Blues only victory over an Irish province in their last seven such encounters was 20-16 at home to Connacht in December. Ulster's three game winning run in the Guinness PRO12 came to a halt by the narrowest of margins at home to Scarlets on Sunday. The Ulstermen have not lost successive regular season games in the same season since December 2014. Ulster won 19-12 against Dragons on their most recent visit to Wales and have not won on back-to-back trips to the country since season 2012/13. The Blues have won only one of their last seven fixtures with Ulster: 28-23 at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park in March 2014.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Aled Summerhill, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Brad Thyer
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Garyn Smith

Ulster: 15 Stuart Olding, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Sammy Arnold, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Paddy Jackson (c), 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Bronson Ross, 2 John Andrew, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Roger Wilson, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Darren Cave, 23 Rory Scholes

Date: Sunday, February 28
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
Television match official: Jon Mason (Wales)

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