RaboDirect PRO12: Ulster v Ospreys
Teenager Stuart Olding will make his first start for Ulster when they face defending RaboDirect champions Ospreys at Ravenhill this evening.
Olding, who played full-back for the Ireland U20 side in Wales last weekend, will slot in at fly-half. The Ulster Academy star has made three appearances when coming on as a replacement for Ulster during their Pro 12 campaign, but with Paddy Jackson sidelined with an ankle injury, and following some classy performances for the Ravens and his club Belfast Harlequins, the 19-year-old is given his chance ahead of Niall O’Connor.
Olding will have plenty of experience around him, with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar on one side and Paddy Wallace on the other while Andrew Trimble and Michael Allen are on the wings.
Ricky Andrew continues to cover for the injured Jared Payne while Luke Marshall is one of two big hitters back from injury as he wears the number 13 jersey with Darren Cave, who was released by the Ireland team management, on the bench.
With Ulster, and Ireland, not exactly awash with tight-heads, Tom Court wears the number three jersey for the first time since that debacle at Twickenham last season. John Afoa is still in New Zealand while Declan Fitzpatrick is with Ireland and Adam Macklin is out injured.
Johann Muller is another just itching to get back to work after a frustrating second period of rest following respective hand and arm injuries which has seen him miss 10 of Ulster’s 19 games this season.
Now he is primed to lead Ulster into battle this evening against an Ospreys side that is equally shorn of many of the international squad members.
Muller, who has just signed up for a further season at Ravenhill, oversees a mixture of old and young as the table-toppers look to consolidate their place in the chase for the end-of-season play-offs.
“We’ve done brilliantly so far this season but the next eight to 12 weeks is obviously going to define the season. The important stuff is coming up now,” said Muller.
“Ulster Rugby has gone through some wonderful times over the past couple of years and it’s brilliant to be part of that.”
ULSTER: R Andrew; A Trimble, L Marshall, P Wallace, M Allen; S Olding, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring, T Court, J Muller, capt, L Stevenson, M McComish, A Birch, R Diack. Replacements: N Annett, R Lutton, A Warwick, D Tuohy, N McComb, P Marshall, D Cave, C Cochrane.
Picture: Stuart Olding: Will slot in at fly-half against Ospreys. Picture: INPHO
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