Cardiff Blues v Ulster match preview
It’s set to be an emotional evening at the Arms Park as the visiting Ulstermen take to the field for the first time since losing teammate Nevin Spence in such tragic circumstances in an accident on his family farm. Captain Johann Muller has spoken about their focus to perform and to carry on with their season to get the job done. No one can doubt the Province’s determination, but to have their captain missing from their starting line-up this week will not be the preparation they would have wanted.
The Cardiff Blues approach this match after a confidence boosting win over Treviso last week. They broke away to an early lead but will be pleased how they managed to hold off the Italian fight back. What will be most pleasing is how they coped when faced with a tough pack, and the home side will be hoping to put in another committed display, although their scrums will remain a worry.
Ulster, with their main strength up front, will look to target the Blues’ pack in order to release their exciting backline which sees the return of Ireland international winger Tommy Bowe to their starting line- up. The half back pairing that so impressed against Munster in Marshall and Jackson, keep their starting spots.
Henry has been gifted the Ulster captaincy in Muller’s absence and he along with players of Tuohy and Henderson’s calibre will be looking to take the match to the home side and really press home their advantage up front. Ulster have had a strong pack for the last few seasons, and combined with new coach Anscombe’s rotation policy, they are starting to develop a real depth that will cause concern for other sides in the league.
The Blues see the return of Captain Pretorius and along with Bradley Davies who is earning his 100th start and James Down, the home side’s pack is not one to underestimate, although there is a clear weakness in their front row in comparison to their opponents.
Jason Tovey gains his first start for the Cardiff based region after his switch from the Dragons and all eyes will be on him to see how he performs and how he can bring the danger men of Hewitt, Roberts and Robinson into action. If the Blues get enough possession they could be more than the defensively strong Ulster can handle, although there’s no doubting the loss of Halfpenny and Cuthbert will hurt them.
This match is set to be a fiercely contested encounter, and with emotions set to be running high, it is one that could easily go either way. The Blues will be hoping for a home win, having only secured two out of the last five, and Ulster will be keen to pay tribute to Nevin Spence and his family, and to move their own season on in the right direction.
Kick Off: 7.05pm
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Harry Robinson, Dafydd Hewitt, Jamie Roberts, Tom James; Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams; Nathan Trevett, Andi Kyriacou, Taufa’ao Filise, Bradley Davies, James Down, Robin Copeland, Andries Pretorius (capt), Sam Warburton.
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Campese Ma’afu, Scott Andrews, Lou Reed, Rory Watts-Jones, Rob Lewis, Gareth Davies, Tom Williams
Ulster: Jared Payne; Tommy Bowe, Michael Allen, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble; Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Nigel Brady, John Afoa, Neil McComb, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry (capt), Nick Williams.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson , Mike McComish, Michael Heaney, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy.