Cardiff Blues are looking to return to winning ways in the Guinness Pro14 on Monday night as Ulster are the visitors to Rodney Parade, kick-off 6pm.
It was a tough result away at Munster last week as John Mulvihill’s men came away empty-handed from Thomond Park despite scoring three tries in a brave performance, going down 38-27 as the home side took advantage of some poor kicking and exiting.
There were plenty of positives to take forward for Cardiff Blues though, with another excellent defensive effort and a clinical attack, going into a match up with Ulster that has seen us win three of our last five encounters in South Wales.
The most recent of those was the last time we hosted the Irish side way back in March 2018 when tries from Kris Dacey, Dillon Lewis, Jarrod Evans and Blaine Scully helped us to a 35-17 victory. The last time the two teams met was last October when tries from Aled Summerhill and Will Boyde couldn’t prevent a 23-14 loss.
For the second week in a row Cardiff Blues are coming up against an unbeaten side with Ulster having beaten Benetton at home in week one, overcome Ospreys in Swansea in week two and then hammered Dragons back in Belfast last week to sit second behind Leinster in Conference A.
Dan MacFarland has made seven changes to the side that beat the Dragons, four coming in the pack where Adam McBurney replaces John Andrew at hooker and Kieran Treadwell is in for Sam Carter at lock, while Matty Rea and Nick Timoney are in the back row for Sean Reidy and Marcell Coetzee.
Billy Burns returns from injury to captain the side from fly-half in place of Ian Madigan, while Stuart McCloskey is released from the Ireland squad to start at centre ahead of James Hume, and in the back three Craig Gilroy gets the nod on the wing in place of Matt Faddes.
Ulster: Michael Lowry, Craig Gilroy, Stewart Moore, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik, Billy Burns (c), John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Adam McBurney, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Matty Rea, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney
Replacements: John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Ross Kane, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Luke Marshall, Ethan McIlroy
John Mulvihill only makes two changes to his Cardiff Blues team that took the field against Munster last week, both coming in the forwards as Josh Turnbull returns from suspension and Will Boyde is back from injury to replace Ben Murphy and Olly Robinson.
James Ratti shifts from blindside flanker to second row to accommodate the changes, while Kristian Dacey continues to captain the side from hooker.
Both Murphy and Robinson drop to the bench as Sam Moore and Alun Lawrence miss out on the 23, with the rest of the squad unchanged.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan, Aled Summerhill, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Hallam Amos, Jarrod Evans, Lewis Jones; Corey Domachowski, Kris Dacey (c), Dmitri Arhip, James Ratti, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull, James Botham, Will Boyde
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, Ben Murphy, Olly Robinson, Jamie Hill, Jason Tovey, Garyn Smith
While the weather is set fair for Monday evening in Newport, heavy rain over the weekend will ensure conditions are greasy at Rodney Parade so keeping errors to a minimum will be key up against a pack that carry hard and have a strong set piece.
If John Mulvihill’s men can then maintain the consistent levels of defence and attack seen across the first three rounds there is a great chance to claim an important win against a team that is likely to be in the play-offs come the end of the season.
The biggest game of the campaign so far is upon us with a chance to make the gap to fourth place at least seven points by the end of the night, it would be a crucial victory if we can earn it. Come on Cardiff!