Stuart Olding available again as Ulster step up Pro12 challenge

Visit to struggling Benetton Treviso start of busy six-game segment for Les Kiss’s side

Stuart Olding: the 22-year-old is in line to play his  first senior game since last March this Saturday  against Benetton Treviso.  Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Stuart Olding: the 22-year-old is in line to play his first senior game since last March this Saturday against Benetton Treviso. Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

 

With no time to dwell on their Champions Cup exit, Ulster enter a crucial six-game segment in the Pro12 which will go a long way to determining their remaining ambitions for the season.

It starts with a trip to bottom side Benetton Treviso on Saturday (5pm Irish time) and even though Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss will be missing his Ireland front-liners – and possibly also the less likely starters called up by Joe Schmidt – he will be able to deploy Stuart Olding for what will be the 22-year-old’s first senior game since last March.

Olding suffered a recurrence of a cruciate ligament injury last season and, after making a notable try-scoring appearance last week for Ulster A in their B&I Cup defeat at Bristol, is poised to play in Treviso where sixth-placed Ulster have had to battle to win on their last four Pro12 visits.

Just where Kiss opts to play the versatile back – Olding can cover outhalf, centre, fullback and wing – remains to be seen though inside centre might be the most likely option as Louis Ludik is fit again and looks set to play fullback while Ian Humphreys could get the nod at 10.

Humphreys, who scored a try and three conversions after coming on in last Saturday’s 56-3 annihilation of Oyonnax before then being emptied by Maurie Fa’asavalu, is apparently fit despite leaving the field looking groggy.

A rest

In the longer term, Iain Henderson’s recovery from his hamstring injury is on track, while tighthead prop Wiehahn Herbst’s toe injury looks set to keep the South African out of action for three months.

“At the end of this period we’ll know where we are,” said Kiss of Ulster’s next six-game segment. “There are 30 points available so you’ve got to try and position yourself nicely on the stretch home and that’s the plan.We’ve got four home games and we want a positive return,” he added.

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