Planet Rugby

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ulster

16th February 2012 12:05

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Lloyd Williams passing for Cardiff Blues

Back in blue: Lloyd Williams

Cardiff Blues welcome back Lloyd Williams, Scott Andrews and Gavin Henson from Wales' squad for Friday's clash with Ulster at the Arms Park.

The Blues return to the Arms Park for the second week having won four of their last five matches.

They face an Ulster side whose only loss in their last five games was 15-19 in Clermont in the Heineken Cup on 21 January. The Ulstermen doubled their tally of away wins in this season's PRO12 on their last trip, winning at Edinburgh.

Ulster need to win to avoid a clean sweep of defeats in Wales this season and have won their last three clashes with the Blues including a 37-15 victory in Cardiff last season.

There are three changes in the backs as the Blues welcome back Williams and Henson from the Six Nations squad and also Dan Parks who announced his international retirement earlier in the month. Henson starts at inside centre with Laulala still suffering from a hamstring strain picked up in the win over Connacht.

There are two changes in the backrow with Josh Navidi and Michael Paterson starting. Cory Hill makes his second RaboDirect start partnering Paul Tito in the second row. While Ryan Tyrell starts at hooker either side of John Yapp and Scott Andrews in the front row.

"I think Ulster's threat comes from across the board," said coach Justin Burnell.

"They have recruited some exceptional South African and New Zealand forwards and have a very good half-back pairing.

"Pienaar is a key man for them and if there was a world ranking I certainly think he would be in the top three whether he was playing 9 or 10.

"It is a massive challenge for us but important that we pick up points to get us to the play off stages.

"The players and coaches certainly enjoyed being back at the Arms Park last weekend and we are fortunate that we have two great venues to play at. It was a great occasion.

"Certain players hadn't played there and were proud that they were given the opportunity. I hope we can secure the same result on Friday."

Meanwhile, Brian McLaughlin has made four personnel and three positional changes for Ulster's important RaboDirect PRO12 visit to Wales.

Paddy Wallace, Tom Court and Chris Henry have been released from Ireland duty and they go straight into the starting XV along with Nigel Brady, who swaps with Andi Kyriacou. Brady, Court and John Afoa form the front-row, while Lewis Stevenson and Dan Tuohy continue their partnership at lock with captain Johann Muller still sidelined through injury.

Willie Faloon and Robbie Diack get another chance in the back row, where they are joined by stand-in skipper Chris Henry. Mike McComish makes way despite a robust performance in the win over Dragons last weekend.

The return of Wallace at inside centre results in a number of positional changes across the backline. Nevin Spence moves out one to wear the number thirteen jersey, with Ian Whitten moving to the wing and Stefan Terblanche starting at full-back.

Form: Cardiff Blues have won four of their last five matches in all competitions, and in home encounters their solo defeat in their last eight fixtures was 19-23 to Leinster in the RaboDirect PRO12 on 7 January. Ulster's only loss in their last five games was 15-19 in Clermont Auvergne in the European Cup on 21 January. The Ulstermen doubled their tally of away wins in this season's RaboDirect PRO12 on their last trip, winning 42-20 at Edinburgh. Ulster need to win to avoid a clean sweep of defeats in Wales this season. Ulster have won their last three clashes with the Blues including a 37-15 victory on their only previous visit to the Cardiff City Stadium.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Paul Tito (capt), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Ryan Tyrell, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Ryan Harford, 19 Maama Molitika, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Chris Czekaj.

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Nevin Spence, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Chris Henry (capt), 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Andi Kyriacou, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Tim Barker, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Simon Danielli, 23 Adam D'Arcy.

Date: Friday, February 17
Kick-off: 19:05
Venue: Arms Park
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

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