Blues have calibre to sink Ulster
ULSTER travel to Cardiff tomorrow in need of victory to arrest the slide that has led to them dropping out of the top four in recent weeks.
After a strong start, the large South African contingent at Ravenhill have come under fire for some less than inspired performances, the worst of which came in the 16-6 defeat to an understrength Munster side three weeks ago.
Ruan Pienaar remains on duty with the Springboks, but Pedrie Wannenburg, BJ Botha and Johann Muller will be expected to provide the leadership they were signed to give -- in front of a callow back-line.
Outside of Ian Humphreys and Simon Danielli, the names don't jump out at the casual observer, but they are some of the most promising backs in Irish rugby.
Full-back Adam D'Arcy scored five tries in one match in the All-Ireland league two weeks ago, while centres Ian Whitten and Nevin Spence are highly promising.
Nineteen-year-old winger Craig Gilroy -- who scored the first ever try at the Aviva Stadium in August -- also gets a chance to shine.
Paddy Wallace and Andrew Trimble are on the bench in case things get too challenging.
The Ulstermen's lack of big-game experience will be tested by a strong Blues back-line that includes Welsh internationals Chris Czekaj, Richie Mustoe, Tom James and Ceri Sweeney alongside the ball-carrying menace of Casey Laulala.
With Xavier Rush and Paul Tito among a strong pack, the hosts should have more than enough calibre to keep their strong form going.
CARDIFF BLUES -- C Czekaj; R Mustoe, C Laulala, D Hewitt, T James; C Sweeney, T Slatter; T Filise, R Thomas, S Andrews; J Down, P Tito (capt); M Paterson, M Molitika, X Rush. Reps: G Williams, T Davies, S Hobbs, B Griffiths, B White, D Fish, G Davies, G Evans.
ULSTER -- A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, N Spence, I Whitten, S Danielli; I Humphreys, P Marshall; P McAllister, N Brady, BJ Botha; J Muller (capt), D Tuohy; P Wannenburg, C Henry, R Diack. Reps: A Kyriacou, B Young, J Cronin, T Barker, W Faloon, I Porter, P Wallace, A Trimble.
REF -- G Clancy (IRFU).