Belfast Telegraph

RaboDirect Pro12: Ulster set to inflict Payne on Blues

By Michael Sadlier

Ulster’s new signing Jared Payne is expected to make his debut at Ravenhill on Friday night when Brian McLaughlin’s unbeaten side take on table-topping Cardiff Blues.

The versatile 25-year-old Kiwi, who can play full back, centre or wing, travelled with the squad to Aironi at the weekend — after arriving in Ulster just over a week ago — but just on a watching brief and he played no part in Ulster’s hard fought 25-19 win which notched up their second consecutive RaboDirect Pro12 League victory.

Payne, who over our summer months was playing for the Auckland Blues in the Super 15 as well as Northland in the domestic ITM Cup Championship, seems likely to slot in at full back for Ulster and is believed to be in line to make Friday’s 23-man squad, though it is unclear whether the former All Black under-21 player, who has signed on for three years at Ravenhill, will start or be given a place on the bench.

Meanwhile, as Ulster, now unbeaten after two outings, gear up for Friday night’s meeting with the Blues they do so in the knowledge that at least the weather won’t be anything like that experienced in Italy on Saturday.

In conditions that touched a sweltering 30 degrees, Ulster had to battle a wall of heat as well as a pumped up Aironi side, but still managed to hold on to notch up a useful result. Though there was no try bonus to be found in such tricky conditions.

Another positive from the trip was that the squad seem to have come through their endurance test without picking up any notable injuries and Ulster coach McLaughlin should have a free hand regarding selection for the game against the Blues.

Two areas that will be receiving added attention on the training ground this week are the set-piece, which wobbled a fair bit at the weekend and Ulster’s lack of discipline, which resulted in an alarmingly high penalty count against the Italians.

A total of 14 were conceded while prop Jerry Cronin was binned, which could have cost Ulster the game.

It certainly didn’t please McLaughlin who said: “That's a very disappointing statistic for us. We pride ourselves on the way we play in relation to our discipline.

“Just look at the game against Glasgow, we gave away four penalties, but (at Aironi) we went off our feet too much and we got done for it.

“Away from home, we can't afford to do that. If we do it in Wales, for example, we will be stung, big time.”

Meanwhile the Blues racked up their second bonus point win when they also saw off Italian opposition, but at the rather cooler surroundings of Cardiff City Stadium, in a 33-18 win over Benetton Treviso on Sunday which puts them two points clear at the top.

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