New signing Jared Payne is in line to make his Ulster debut this Friday against Cardiff Blues after he was named in the preliminary 29 man squad by Brian McLaughlin.
The New Zealander arrived in Belfast last week and has quickly settled within the squad. The versatile player will offer McLaughlin a few options as he can operate on the wing, at fullback or in the centre.
Ulster made it two wins from their opening two games after a hard fought win over Aironi over the weekend. They will now look to repeat last season’s feat of winning their first three games of the campaign.
Ulster have won all eight home matches they have played at Ravenhill in 2011 but will face a stern test of their credentials against an in-form Cardiff. The Welsh side sit top of the pile in the RaboDirect PRO12 having brushed aside Edinburgh and Treviso to register two bonus point wins.
Forwards: Paddy McAllister, Callum Black, Jerry Cronin, Declan Fitzpatrick, Adam Macklin, John Burns, Andi Kyriacou, Nigel Brady, Dan Tuohy, Lewis Stevenson, Tim Barker, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack
Backs: Paul Marshall, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, Ian Whitten, Luke Marshall, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave, Jared Payne, Conor Gaston, Craig Gilroy, Adam D’Arcy
Didn’t get anyone along to the press conference but I’m sure there will be a few interviews with Mr Payne surfacing over the next few days.
However we all know that it’s what he does on the pitch that counts and I must admit I’m quite keen to see him play in the flesh, thoug h I believe it will be from off the bench. With D’Arcy more than likely starting, the question is which of our local youngsters will be bumped to make way for the Kiwi?
Having watched some of his performances in the Super 15 it will be an interesting benchmark to see if he stands out at PRO12 level, I suspect he will but maybe not as much as some are expecting. It is a more considered game up here with less emphasis on the basketball style approach of the Kiwis and the Aussies.
As I didn’t see the Aironi match I suppose there is little point in commenting on performances, but the team is practically picking itself with McLaughlin fairly conservative with his changes. I don’t expect to see that many for Cardiff, which will be Ulster’s toughest test to date, though personally I’d like to see more from Neil McComb, Robbie Diack, Ian Porter, Luke Marshall and Conor Gaston.