Preview: Ulster v Cardiff Blues

Date published: March 26 2015

Fly-half Paddy Jackson and inside centre Stuart Olding have been named in Ulster's starting XV to face Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill on Friday.

The pair suffered elbow injuries against Toulon in January and have recovered in time to be available for Ulster's Guinness PRO12 run-in.

They are the only changes to the starting side that lost to the Dragons at Rodney Parade three weeks ago.

Iain Henderson, who was part of Ireland's Six nations triumph last weekend, starts at blindside against the Welsh region. 

Callum Black, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbt are all named in an unchanged front-row.

Franco van der Merwe and Dan Tuohy continue in the second-row, with Clive Ross and Nick Williams selected in the back-row along with Henderson.

Ruan Pienaar, who passed the 500 points mark in the PRO12, at Rodney Parade, starts at scrum-half, with Darren Cave, who continues as captain, selected at outside centre.

Michael Allen is picked on the left wing, with the PRO12's leading try scorer, Craig Gilroy, selected on the right. Louis Ludik is named at full-back.

Roger Wilson was unavailable for selection due to personal reasons.

Meanwhile, hooker Matthew Rees returns to captain the region as Cardiff Blues travel to Belfast for Friday's game.

Rees is back in the front-row alongside prop Adam Jones as the coaching team make just three changes to the starting line-up that defeated Connacht Rugby in dramatic fashion in the last league game.

The final change sees Lucas Amorosino called onto the wing with Argentine international team-mate Joaquin Tuculet ruled out of the game with a hand injury.

Manoa Vosawai returns among the replacements alongside prop Scott Andrews after his second half appearance for Wales in the Six Nations victory over Italy.

"This game is important to us and we are looking forward to the challenge of going to the Kingspan," said attack coach Paul John.

"We need to apply ourselves to an important game and get the maximum points we can from the rest of this season.

"There are only a few weeks left and we want to finish on a high. It's important we have momentum and are positive for the rest of this season. Ulster is a difficult place to go but we are looking forward to the test."

Form: Ulster's four game winning run in all competitions ended in Newport in the last round of the Guinness PRO12. The Ulstermen have won all eight home games they have played in the PRO12 this season – their most recent reversal in Belfast in the competition being to Leinster on 2nd May. Cardiff Blues have won their last two games, at home to Edinburgh and Connacht, but have not won three in a row in the tournament since last May. The Blues only victory away from home in the PRO12 since round 1 came on a trip to Newport Gwent Dragons on New Year's Day. Ulster have won four of their last five contests with the Blues whilst Cardiff Blues have not been victorious Kingspan Stadium since April 2010.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Darren Cave (c), 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Clive Ross, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiahahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 TBC, 21 Paul Marshall, 21 Ian Humphreys, 23 Rory Scholes.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Lucas Amorosino, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Taufa’ao Filise, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Tom Isaacs.

Date: Friday, March 27
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)