Ulster Head Coach Brian McLaughlin has named his starting XV, plus replacements, for Ulster’s Magners League fixture, against Cardiff Blues, at Cardiff City Stadium, this Friday 26th March, kick off 7.05pm.
Commenting on the fixture, Ulster Coach Brian McLaughlin said: “It’s a big challenge at Cardiff, especially after the very disappointing display up at Scarlets. We’re really looking forward to getting ourselves back on track and getting ourselves moving in the right direction.
“We started quite well against the Scarlets, but we just made too many simple schoolboy errors. We put ourselves under ferocious pressure from the amount of errors we made, the soft points we gave away and the lack of discipline with regard to the referee.
“The team all sat down last Friday, which was the first time we were all back together after the internationals although we were missing Paddy, Rory and Stephen. We sat down and had a good chat about the Scarlets game, we went through the review of the game and there were a few home truths, there’s no doubt about that. After that hopefully we’ll see a much more focused and more determined performance this week.
“We’ve had two good training sessions so far this week, we had a good session on Monday. We got everybody back in on Tuesday and we had a good attack session on Tuesday morning. We’re building up nicely and we just hope we can go to Cardiff and put up a display that we’re proud of.
“This is the first time since Bath we’ve had everybody available, so we’re looking forward to getting out here in Cardiff and showing how good a team we really are.”
The pack sees Rory Best return as hooker, with Nigel Brady moving to the bench. Dan Tuohy steps into the number 4 shirt, in place of Ed O’Donoghue, who starts the game as a replacement, with Stephen Ferris back at blindside.
In the backs; Simon Danielli replaces Timoci Nagusa on the wing. Paul Marshall starts at scrumhalf, with Niall O’Connor at outhalf.
Chris Henry will once again captain the team.
Ulster: (1-8) Tom Court, Rory Best, BJ Botha, Dan Tuohy, Ryan Caldwell, Stephen Ferris, David Pollock, Chris Henry (Capt). (9-15) Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Simon Danielli, Paddy Wallace, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble, Jamie Smith. (16-22) Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Ed O’Donoghue, Robbie Diack, Michael Heaney, Ian Humphreys, Timoci Nagusa
There you go, a few surprises in that selection, and I must as admit I’m not so confident about an Ulster win as I was with my exciting side.
It does appear though that the management are keeping a weather eye on next season with the allegedly departing O’Donoghue benched and Boss out of the match day panel altogether and it is these two positions that I would have the most concerns.
Both Marshall and Caldwell are out and out Ulster men and will give their all, but both tend to get a bit overexcited in matches frequently losing possession as a result of their over enthusiasm.
No big worries with Henry over Diack, in my case it’s just a personal preference for the Diack’s wonderful hands as opposed to Henry’s phenomenal work rate and with O’Connor at out half it looks as though Ulster are looking to play a positional game and take Cardiff on up front, so Henry is probably more appropriate.
If Ulster are to come away from Cardiff with a win the pack are going to have to put in a considerably improved performance than they did against the Scarlets and all the rhetoric in the world won’t count for anything if they don’t front up and dominate their opposite numbers. While any pack is capable of raising their game for a one off match I still think that Ulster are too lightweight to rely on this type of performance in the long term and would have been better trying to develop a fast handling broken play game.
In my opinion they wont be as fluent without O’Donoghue, Diack, Boss and Humphreys on the pitch and I’m no where near as confident now as I was earlier in the week. It’s a big call by the management, lets hope that they’ve got it right.