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Ulster are up for fight after Scarlet fever warning

By Michael Sadlier

Ulster have been put on notice that the Scarlets mean business for tonight's crunch PRO12 clash at the Welsh region's Llanelli stronghold (kick-off 7.35).

Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies has warned Les Kiss's injury-hit side that the in-form Welsh are approaching this game as vital to their ultimate prospects of a top four finish.

"Tonight is a massive game for us," Davies stated.

"We need to pick up every point possible and I think bonus points will be crucial," he said as fourth-placed Scarlets aim to heap further misery on Ulster's difficult season.

Kiss's squad travel to Wales without star player Charles Piutau who has been left out of the side and is thought to have been rested for the game though Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson return.

Ulster's crippling injury list has already ruled out Ruan Pienaar, who is believed to have undergone knee surgery and is likely to be out of action for at least a month.

Kiss's men, who currently sit outside the play-off places in sixth, four points behind their hosts, are bidding to avoid back-to-back away defeats.

But Ulster flanker Chris Henry is up for what could be a season-defining battle. "This is a tight squad and we are going to keep fighting," he said.

Ulster will need to throw everything at this as they have shipped some stinging criticism after their meek first-half performance at the RDS.

Their away displays have been an issue this season and Luke Marshall is ready to do his bit to improve matters at Parc y Scarlets tonight.

“It’s a test of character this week,” the centre said.

“Our away form, certainly in the last two games (at Leinster and Clermont), hasn’t been good but we won over in Cardiff a month ago and we know we have to replicate that.

“I can’t remember the last time we won over there (at Parc y Scarlets) but I don’t think it will be too much of a factor.

“Rory (Best) did talk to us about how we have to improve our away form and how we just can’t rely on winning at home all the time,” added Marshall of Ulster’s three away victories in this campaign.

Another area needing some shoring up is the defence where Les Kiss’ squad have been leaking a few too many scores of late.

“We have made a few soft mistakes, but I still think our defence has generally been strong,” said Marshall. “Recently there have been lapses of concentration.

“You look at Leinster’s three tries last Saturday, the first one was very soft and, for the second one, Luke McGrath went through a big gap in the lineout which just shouldn’t have been there.

“We have made mistakes but we are still confident in our defensive ability, despite the attacking threats the Scarlets have.”

Marshall, who came off the bench when the sides last met at the Kingspan in September, in a game Ulster won, also knows that the Scarlets’ backline is one which will require extra policing tonight.

“We said at the start of the season that they had one of the best backlines in Europe so it will be a good test for us,” he added. “But we are also confident in the ability we have and we can cause them problems.”

Marshall maintains that the Welsh will concede tries if space is created against them.

“They definitely have their vulnerabilities, it’s just up to us to expose them,” he said.

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