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Monday 24 July 2017

Rush plans to be on the money as new Ulster bosses pay a visit

XAVIER Rush is keen to show his new employers that it will be money well spent when the Kiwi packs down for his 100th competitive game for the Cardiff Blues when they take on Ulster in the Magners League at the Cardiff City Stadium tonight.

The 32-year-old former All Black No 8 is due to link up with Ulster next season on a two-year deal, and he says it will feel strange running out to face them.

"It's going to be a bit of different occasion for me playing against Ulster that's for sure," said Rush, who has been with Cardiff for five seasons.

"It's not often you end up playing against a team you'll be playing for the following season. That will not stop me from playing my best, though. I have to something to prove."

That will be the challenge thrown down to Ulster skipper Chris Henry, who will be in direct competition for a starting position next season.

"Well, the whole Cardiff back-row is a challenge. They are all tremendous ball-carriers, with Xavier a real class act," said Henry. who will have Stephen Ferris and David Pollock alongside him in the back-row, while Rory Best is also included in the starting line-up.

"It's something I'm personally looking forward to. It's a challenge for all of our back-row, but it's good to have Stephen back. That should help us enormously."

With Isaac Boss unavailable, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has been forced to play Paul Marshall at scrum-half, with Ireland U-20 pivot Michael Heaney on the bench.

Marshall will be partnered by Niall O'Connor at half-back, with Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace, along with Scotland's Simon Danielli, in the three-quarters. McLaughlin makes six changes from that disappointing defeat to the Scarlets last time out, with Dan Tuohy edging out Ed O'Donoghue at lock and Tom Court returning at loose-head.

"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."

Verdict: Ulster

Cardiff Blues -- B Blair; L Halfpenny, C Laulala, T Shanklin, T James; C Sweeney, R Rees; G Jenkins, R Thomas, T Filise, S Morgan, P Tito, A Powell, M Williams, X Rush. Reps: R Williams, S Andrews, A Pretorius, M Molitika, G Cooper, S Norton Knight/D Flanagan, D Hewitt.

Ulster -- J Smith; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, S Danielli; N O'Connor, P Marshall; T Court, R Best, BJ Botha, D Tuohy, R Caldwell, S Ferris, D Pollock, C Henry (capt). Reps: N Brady, D Fitzpatrick, E O'Donoghue, R Diack, M Heaney, I Humphreys, T Nagusa.

Ref -- Neil Paterson (SRU).

Cardiff Blues v Ulster,

Live, Setanta Sports 1, 7.05

Irish Independent

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