PINT-SIZED scrum-half Paul Marshall will relish the opportunity to shine when Ulster finish their home Magners League programme against the Cardiff Blues tonight (7.30).
Marshall’s season has been filled with some highs but mostly with lows as he understudied both Isaac Boss and Cillian Willis. But the former Irish Schools’ star is hoping to force coach Matt Williams to keep in him in the number nine jersey for the remainder of the season.
Williams has made just one change from the side that defeated Glasgow in Firhill last week, with Darren Cave returning to partner Paddy Wallace in midfield. The pack remains the same with new Lion Stephen Ferris at blindside and Bryan Young surprisingly keeping out Grand Slam winner Tom Court from the loose-head position.
Williams also keeps the half-back partnership the same with Marshall joining his Belfast Harlequins club colleague Niall O’Connor for the second consecutive match.
“Chances have been few and far between for me this season,” said Marshall who is the smallest and lightest player in the Ulster squad which was added to yesterday with the signing of Saracens’ hooker Andy Kyriacou.
“Like many of the positions in the team, scrum-half is very competitive and whether it’s me, Isaac Boss or Cillian Willis, that gets the call we know we must take it with both hands.
“That’s what I intend to do tonight. If I do then the I could get to start the two final games of the season. But you never know whether Matt will decide to change the team because of a pattern he wishes to play, or certain opposition.”
“As it is our last game at home this season, we want to win also and give our loyal supporters something to shout about as they have had it tough at times this season.”
Cardiff give Academy player James Loxton his senior debut at full-back, as they rest senior staff. Lions quintet Leigh Halfpenny, Martyn Williams, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin and Gethin Jenkins all sit out, as do Ben Blair, Xavier Rush, Paul Tito, Maama Molitika, Nick Robinson, Tom James, Bradley Davies, Gareth Williams and prop Faao Filise.
Meanwhile, Connacht have announced a 23-man squad ahead of their Magners League clash with the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Sunday (5.05pm).
Both Keith Matthews and Ray Ofisa have overcome the injuries which kept them out of last week’s game against Munster.
ULSTER: C Schifcofske; S Danielli, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; N O’Connor, P Marshall; B Young, R Best (capt), BJ Botha, C Del Fava, R Caldwell, S Ferris, D Pollock, R Diack. Replacements: N Brady, T Court, M McCullough, C Henry, I Boss, I Whitten, I Humphreys.
CARDIFF BLUES: J Loxton; R Mustoe, J Robinson, G Thomas, C Czekaj; C Sweeney, R Rees; R Gill, R Thomas, J Yapp, D Jones, S Morgan, S Warburton, R Sowden-Tayor (capt), A Powell.
Replacements: S Andrews, R Jonhson, J Down, B White, D Allinson, D Flanagan, R Howells.
CONNACHT (squad v Dragons): L Bibo, A Browne, F Carr, S Cronin, M Deane, G Duffy, A Dunne, A Farley, A Flavin, D Gannon, I Keatley, R Loughney, K Matthews, B McGovern, F Murphy, T Nathan, J O’Connor, R Ofisa, C O’Loughlin, C Rigney, M Swift, N Ta’auso, B Wilkinson.
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