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Preview: Ulster v Cardiff Blues

02nd May 2013 12:35

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Rory Best Ulster vs Leinster Heineken Cup Final

Starts: Rory Best

Ulster have named British and Irish Lions absentee Rory Best in their starting XV for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 game against Cardiff Blues.

John Afoa, Johann Muller and Iain Henderson all return to the side, while loosehead prop Callum Black is preferred to Tom Court in the front-row.

Robbie Diack and Chris Henry both make their 100th appearance for the province and will start alongside each other in the back-row.

Paul Marshall starts at scrum-half, with Ruan Pienaar moving to fly-half. Stuart Olding who has scored two tries in his past two games, retains his spot at inside centre, with Darren Cave at 13.

British and Irish Lions winger, Tommy Bowe, is selected on the left wing with Andrew Trimble, who has scored ten tries for the province so far this season, starting on the right.

Sean Doyle is included in an Ulster squad for the first time since breaking his leg in October and will start on the bench.

Nigel Brady is also named among the substitutes in what is likely to be his last game at Ravenhill. The 33-year-old has represented Ulster for 12 years and has played 118 times.

Ulster require three more match points to ensure that they finish at the top of the table. Mark Anscombe's team have won their last three PRO12 matches and have lost just once at Ravenhill in the competition all season: 12-16 to Ospreys in February.

Meanwhile, having been selected for the Lions on Tuesday, Alex Cuthbert will line up for the Blues in the last match of their season.

Cuthbert, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, is playing his first game since helping clinch the Six Nations championship for Wales with two tries against England.

Also in the backs Dan Fish starts at full-back having recovered from a shoulder injury. Rhys Patchell and Harry Robinson, who have both been selected in the Wales U20s squad for the IRB Junior World Championships in France, also start.

In the forwards Michael Paterson, playing his last game for the Blues before joining Sale Sharks, starts at number eight.

Josh Navidi, Lou Reed, Bradley Davies and Scott Andrews, who are all included in the 32-man training squad to prepare for the forthcoming two-test tour of Japan, all start. Ceri Sweeney and Tom James, who will be joining Exeter Chiefs, feature on the bench.

The Blues take on an Ulster side that require three more match points to ensure that they finish at the top of the table. The Ulsterman have won their last three PRO12 matches and have lost just once at Ravenhill in the competition all season.

However, the Blues can take confidence from the fact they have recorded two away victories over Irish provinces this season in Connacht (round 1) and Munster (round 13).

Form: Ulster require three more match points to ensure that they finish at the top of the table. The Ulsterman have won their last three RaboDirect PRO12 matches and have lost just once at Ravenhill in the competition all season: 12-16 to Ospreys in February. Cardiff Blues have secured just six league points from their last half a dozen PRO12 encounters and have lost their last three away games in the competition. The Blues only two victories over Irish provinces this season have strangely both been away from home - in Connacht in round 1 and Munster round 13. Cardiff Blues' only victory over Ulster in their last five fixtures was 21-14 at the Arms Park on 17th February 2012.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Tom Court, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Paddy Jackson, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Peter Nelson.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Gavin Evans (c), 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Michael Paterson, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Campese Ma'afu, 19 Teofilo Paulo, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Tom James.

Date: Friday, May 3
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Nigel Correll (Ireland)
Television match official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Citing Commissioner: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

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