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Thursday 24 August 2017

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding back for Ulster

Paddy Jackson kicked three penalties for Ulster
Paddy Jackson kicked three penalties for Ulster

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have both returned from elbow problems in January to start for Ulster against Cardiff at The Kingspan Stadium tonight (KO 7.35, Live BBCNI).

There can't be a better time to add value as Ulster shelved their poor mid-season form to come strong at the right time on a four-game winning run in all competitions until it was abruptly ended by The Dragons.

The Ulstermen have won all eight home games they have played in the PRO12 this season and Cardiff just do not look equipped to undo this trend.

Centre Darren Cave will go all out to show what Ireland are missing and Craig Gilroy has rediscovered his sparkle.

Most importantly, Iain Henderson will finally start a match to remind Irish rugby that he offers far more than impact late on.

The fact that Ulster can put-out a foreign-based spine of tight-head Wiehahn Herbst, Franco van der Merwe and Nick Williams in the pack should stand them in good stead.

The forwards, as always, will set the standards at set-piece where Rob Herring assumes a major role in the absence of the protected Rory Best.

In behind, the guidance of the super-consistent Ruan Pienaar and the ability of Jackson to get to the pace of the game quickly will dictate how well Ulster controls this one.

Cardiff Blues have won their last two games at home to Edinburgh and Connacht. They have not won three in a row in the tournament since last May.

It was in victory against Connacht that they showed how they can be brilliant one minute and brutal the next.

ULSTER: L Ludik; C Gilroy, D Cave, S Olding, M Allen; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst, D Tuohy, F van der Merwe (capt), I Henderson, C Ross, N Williams.

CARDIFF: R Patchell; A Cuthbert, C Allen, G Evans, L Amorosino; G Anscombe, L Williams; S Hobbs, M Rees (capt), A Jones, J Hoeata, L Reed, J Turnbull, E jekins, J Navidi.

Verdict: Ulster

ulster v CARDIFF

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