Ulster can travel with confidence to Wales insists Louis Ludik

Ulster's Louis Ludik and Rhys Gill of Cardiff Blues
Ulster's Louis Ludik and Rhys Gill of Cardiff Blues

Ulster will be without second row Alan O’Connor and prop forward Andy Warwick for this week’s trip to Wales as the focus returns to the European Champions Cup.

The forward duo picked up injuries during the Guinness PRO14 win over Cardiff Blues.

Warwick suffered a knee injury and O’Connor a knock to the ankle.

Friday night’s game in Pool Four is a critical game for both Ulster and Scarlets as they look to keep their Euro hopes alive.

Ulster lie third in the group, one point behind second placed Leicester Tigers.

The Scarlets lost both opening pool games and are desperate for a win.

However, with French side Racing 92 strongly faniced to take top spot in the Pool - they currently hold a four point advantage over Tigers - Ulster know they need to win their back to back games against Scarlets - the Welsh side returning to Belfast next week.

Ulster suffered a 29-12 loss to Scarlets a fortnight ago at Kingspan Stadium and while they will have several international players back who missed that PRO14 match, they will need to step up on past performances.

The win over the Blues last weekend was hard earned, although the result was better than the performance.

However, utility back Louis Ludik believes the side can travel to Llanelli with confidence.

“It was tough, it wasn’t pretty but the guys did well in the end to push through,” he said.

“There was a lot of mistakes but they guys showed a lot of character for the victory.

“We knew that was what they would bring, it wasn’t raining, but the ball was wet and it was slippy under foot, we knew they would bring line speed.

“It was tough conditions but we’re not holding onto the ball at all.

“We’re not showing enough patience, we look dangerous when we have the ball but we give it away too easily, we’re too frivolous with it, we need to fix that.

Ludik added: “We’re going back again to Scarlets and we know it’s going to be fast and furious.

“We know what they bring and it’s a big one, we need to play much, much better than that.”

Ludik has enjoyed some big away days in Europe with Ulster and is hoping for another on at Parc y Scarlets.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had Toulouse, Harlequins, even that first Leicester game was quite close, in Europe, even with our record, we tend to play well.

“We’re going to go for it, I always say it’s something different, there’s an excitement, you’re playing against the best, even though it’s Scarlets (from the PRO14), you know you’re going to get their best, it’s very exciting, it’s going to be furious.”

Ludik is just delighted to be back playing after missing the first 11 games of the season.

“It’s a long time, it’s great to be back, two full 80 minutes so I’ve been pretty tired afterwards but, look, I love playing, it’s great to be back.”

“It’s horrible when the boys are playing and you’re out there running shuttles up and down.

“It’s nice to just be part of it again, out there in front of the Kingspan faithful. It’s great to be back.”

p Ulster have released South African prop Schalk van der Merwe who made only three appearances in his season and a half with the Irish province.

Van der Merwe joined Ulster in the summer of 2017 but missed three months of action because of a shoulder injury.

A brief Ulster statement extended “best wishes” to Van der Merwe.

The statement added that the prop “has returned to South Africa after being released early from his contract”.