24/10/2019 – Guinness Pro 14 Communications – Williams captains Cardiff Blues on return to Ulster

Nick Williams returns to the number eight jersey as one of four changes made to the Cardiff Blues line-up for Friday’s GUINNESS PRO14 trip to take on Ulster.

Williams will captain the Blues at his former stomping ground as Wales’ Capital Region look to respond following back-to-back Championship defeats to Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors.

Three of John Mulvihill’s changes are made in the pack, with Liam Belcher returning to the starting line-up at hooker and Welsh international, Scott Andrews, set for his first start of the campaign, replacing the injured Dmitri Arhip.

Elsewhere, Jason Harries will make his first appearance of the campaign on the wing, after Owen Lane linked up with the Wales squad, who prepare for a crucial Rugby World Cup semi final against South Africa in Japan on Sunday.

The changes sees Will Boyde shifting to the blindside, with Josh Turnbull combining with Rory Thornton at lock, replacing Seb Davies who is named on the bench.

Centre Willis Halaholo will make his 50th GUINNESS PRO14 appearance, just short of three years since making his Championship debut out in Treviso in 2016.

Head coach John Mulvihill is keen to see a response from his side, but insists they have shown positives in the opening weeks of the campaign.

The Australian said: “Results-wise, we’ve been disappointed, but there’s aspects of our play in all three games which have been really encouraging, and we can be positive travelling to Belfast.

“We have identified the areas we needed to work on, and we’ve been pleased with the work on the training ground over the past two weeks.

“We know the challenges that awaits us in Belfast. Ulster are a proud team, especially in front of their own crowd, and they’ll look to put their physical stamp on the match. But it’s important for us to remain focused on our own game plan.

“We’ve picked up six points from two games on the road this season, and that gives us confidence. We’ve spoke a lot about wanting to make a statement when we’re away from home this season, and this is another exciting opportunity to do that.

“It’s also great to see Willis making his 50th appearance in the competition. He’s really grown as a leader within the backs over the last few months, and we all know the quality he’s got.”

Arhip’s injury puts Keiron Assiratti in the frame for his first competitive appearance of the season.

He’s named on the bench alongside two international forwards in Kristian Dacey and Seb Davies, with seven of the eight replacements products of the Cardiff Blues academy.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Jason Harries, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Aled Summerhill; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Brad Thyer, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, Josh Turnbull, Rory Thornton, Will Boyde, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams (capt)

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, Seb Davies, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Lewis Jones, Jason Tovey, Harri Millard