Planet Rugby

Preview: Ulster v Cardiff Blues

08th May 2008 09:04

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Young wingers Roger Davies and Leigh Halfpenny will make their debuts for the Cardiff Blues this Friday in the final Magners League match of the season against Ulster at Ravenhill.

Cardiff Blues have already secured their position as top placed Welsh team in the Magners League this season, and with a four-point cushion ahead of Munster, a win against Ulster will cement their place as runners-up in the final league pecking order.

Cardiff Blues line-up shows wholesale changes to the team that recorded a bonus point win against Connacht in Galway last Friday with Nick Robinson, Xavier Rush, Scott Morgan, Maama Molitika and Fao Filise the only players to keep their starting berths.

Roger Davies and Leigh Halfpenny were both on the scoresheet in Wednesday's Principality Premiership regional derby win for Cardiff against Pontypridd. In addition Bradley Davies, Ben White and Dafydd Hewitt all return to the starting XV.

"The margin of the win was pleasing last week, and the boys were disappointed to let in a last minute try," said Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby Dai Young.

"Overall this season has been a big step forward for us. We won two out of three in the EDF, reached the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup and are the best are the best placed Welsh region in the Magners League. We've already stared to look at areas where we can improve.

"We are all hands to the pump at the minute with the Wales call-ups and also with injuries, so we are down to what we have got left.

"We haven't trained much this week either because of our lack of numbers. However it's nice to see two youngsters coming in on the wing. They have both played well for Cardiff this season and deserve their chance."

Meanwhile, David Humphreys will start in the last game of his professional career.

The Ulster and Ireland legend has been plagued with injuries this season and after being picked for his final game remarked: "I am delighted to be playing tomorrow night at Ravenhill, it's great to get a final opportunity to play for Ulster and with the injuries I've suffered this season I didn't think it would happen. I'm really looking forward to running out one last time."

Ulster coach Matt Williams said: "David is an iconic figure in Ulster and Irish rugby and I hope the people of Ulster turn up to say thank you for a remarkable career."

With Ulster now qualified for the Heineken Cup next season, Matt Williams has made five changes to the starting line-up, the backline remains the same apart from Wallace dropping to the bench to accommodate Humphreys.

Bryan Young starts at loose head with Justin Fitzpatrick named on the bench. Carlo Del Fava picked up an injury against Glasgow so Ryan Caldwell starts in the second row alongside Justin Harrison, who will be making his final appearance for Ulster before moving onto Bath.

Stephen Ferris returns from injury to take his place as blindside Flanker with Matt McCullough dropping to be bench and Kieron Dawson starting at Open Side.

Form: Ulster tripped up 24-35 at home to Glasgow Warriors last Saturday and for the first time secured a try bonus point despite losing. Ulster have lost their last two games against Welsh opponents, but have not lost at Ravenhill against a Welsh side in the league since Ospreys were the visitors in November 2005. Cardiff Blues have won their last four games in the Magners League; the Blues have not won five in a row in the league since season 2005/06. The Cardiff based team have won five of their last six games against Irish opposition. The last four clashes between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Blues have lost on all five previous visits to Ravenhill.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Mark Bartholomeusz, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Andrew Trimble, 12 Rob Dewey, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 David Humphreys, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Kieron Dawson, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Justin Harrison, 3 Tom Court, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Bryan Young,

Replacements: 16 N Brady, 17 Justin Fitzpatrick, 18 Matt McCullough, 19 Neil Best, 20 Paul Marshall, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Mark McCrea.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Nick Macleod, 14 Roger Davies, 13 Marc Stcherbina, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Leigh Halfpenny, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush (c), 7 Ben White, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Scott Morgan, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Gary Powell, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.

Replacements: 16 John Yapp, 17 T Rhys Thomas, 18 James Down, 19 Mark Lewis, 20 Rhys Shellard, 21 Jason Spice, 22 Dai Flanagan.

Date: Friday, May 9

Venue: Ravenhill

Kick-off: 19:30 BST (18:30 GMT)

Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU)

Touch Judges: E O'Dowd (IRFU), M Gargan (IRFU)

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