Herring hoping to push on
Ulster coach Dan McFarland has brought back plenty of firepower for the province's first game since the conclusion of the Autumn Internationals.
Hosting Cardiff at Kingspan Stadium this afternoon, Ulster are able to field six players who represented Ireland last month with John Cooney, Rob Herring, Stuart McCloskey and Jordi Murphy all starting, while Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale will make their returns from the bench.
Neither Will Addison nor Iain Henderson - the final two men from Ulster's Ireland contingent - are involved after being subbed off against the USA last weekend. Ian Nagle is on the bench having made his debut for the province last weekend.
Herring believes Ulster must realise the importance of this mid-season run that also includes the final four European fixtures of their pool and three Irish derbies.
"I think if you look at the league now, we need to start pushing for those first two spots," said the hooker who will be making his 150th outing in Ulster colours. "We've Cardiff, back-to-back with Scarlets and then the interpros. It's setting us up for the end of the season if you start to push on.
"If you look at Ulster in recent seasons, we've always left it late and needing to win our last five or something like that. Obviously we need to take it game by game but we have to recognise how important this block is and hopefully in eight weeks' time we come out looking pretty strong."
Ulster - M Lowry; H Speight; J Hume, S McCloskey, L Ludik; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore, A O'Connor (capt), K Treadwell, S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee; Reps: R Best, E O'Sullivan, R Kane, I Nagle, N Timoney, D Shanahan, J McPhillips, J Stockdale.
Cardiff Blue - M Morgan; A Summerhill, H Millard, R Lee-Lo, J Harries; J Evans, L Williams (capt); R Gill, K Dacey, S Andrews; S Davies, J Turnbull, S Manoa, O Robinson, N Williams. Reps: L Belcher, R Carré, D Lewis, G Earle, J Down, T Williams, S Shingler, G Smith
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