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Blues will rise to Ulster’s challenge

Guinness PRO12 Editor

26 Mar 2010

Cardiff Blues skipper Paul Tito insists his side won’t be bullied by Ulster this weekend.

The Blues host their Irish counterparts at the Cardiff City Stadium this evening, before travelling to Ravenhill for the return fixture in a week’s time.

And while Tito admits that Ulster will provide a huge physical challenge on both occasions, he says the Blues are more than ready to meet fire with fire.

"They have rugged forwards who will try to bully us around," said Tito, who starts in the second row for a Blues XV which includes six returning Welsh internationals.

“But we’re not a team to be bullied. 

"We will meet their challenge head on and stop their go-forward."

Far from labeling tonight’s opponents as a one-dimensional outfit who look to solely dominate upfront, however, Tito is aware that Ulster’s broken-field ability and attacking invention are among in the best in the league.

And if the Blues are to move above Ulster and into seventh place in the table, both forwards and backs will have to produce a better performance than in the loss to Leinster last time out.

"They are one place above us and are looking for a win to propel themselves up the ladder.

"Ian Humphreys and Isaac Boss will have a crack if it’s on,” added Tito, who has played in all 13 of the Blues’ Magners League ties so far this season.

"Then there’s Simon Danielli and strong guys out wide. They are a very well-balanced team who will back themselves to come here and get the points.

"We’re going to have to be on top of our game to get a win.”

The Blues are currently in a precarious position in the league standings.

As if being 15 points off top spot and 11 off a Play-Off place wasn’t bad enough, Dai Young’s men are embroiled in a real battle to secure automatic qualification for next season’s Heineken Cup.

Only three of the four Welsh regions receive guaranteed entry into Europe’s top-tier competition – with the fourth facing an Italian side in a sudden-death play off – and the Blues are in real danger of missing out.

Just a point separates the eighth-placed Blues from the ninth-placed Scarlets, with Tito and co having to travel to Llanelli next month in what could be close to a winner-takes-all scenario.

The pressure is clearly on for the Blues, especially as they reached the Heineken Cup semi-finals in 2009, and Tito insists he and his team-mates are fully aware of the expectations placed upon them.

"We owe it to the Blues as a region and to the fans here to qualify," the 31-year-old told BBC Sport Wales.

"The other teams in Wales will be saying the same thing, but we’ve got ourselves into this dog fight and have to get ourselves out.

"We’re a tight group, we know what’s expected of us and we’ve got five league games to put it right."