European Champions Cup Pool 3
Toulon v Ulster
Saturday: Stade Felix Mayol, 3.15pm
TV: Sky Sports 2
Ireland international Stuart Olding knows what lies ahead for Ulster when they travel to Stade Felix Mayol to face the multi-talented Champions Cup holders Toulon.
With the French aristocrats feeling slightly perplexed by the successive defeats to Stade Francais and Montpellier recently in the Top 14, as well as their hiccup against Leicester in Pool 3 last time out, they will see Saturday’s game as one of redemption and a chance to get back on the saddle.
Ulster, despite still having a ‘mathematical’ chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages, may feel their day is done this season in Europe and with their priorities now pointing towards the Guinness Pro12, a number of their top-line players could be rested.
It will, though, give some back-up players a chance to play against the best, and learn, particularly after yet another near disastrous inconsistent performance against Treviso which saw Ulster toss away a 24-0 lead to just win by four points.
The twice capped Olding is expecting a hard time in the south of France, particularly after his first encounter with the French which saw him leave the game early after being concussed.
“It was probably the toughest game I’ve ever played.”
Ulster’s long injury list got a bit longer with international Dan Tuohy likely to be out for up to eight weeks after ligament damage following Sunday game against Treviso. Tight-head prop Wiehahn Herbst is also out of Saturday’s clash after suffering a tweak to a hamstring that saw him miss three games before the New Year.
Ireland centre Luke Marshall is not undergoing return-to-play protocols for concussion after he took a knock during training last week. Two other internationals are being closely monitored with Iain Henderson returning to training following foot surgery and is expecting to be back within a few weeks. Flanker Chris Henry is continuing his rehabilitation from heart surgery in November.
Number eight Nick Williams is still in rehab following a bad hamstring tear and will not be available until the end of January at the earliest. Young midfield star Stuart McCloskey underwent elbow surgery and it will be at least six weeks before he becomes available while international wing Andrew Trimble hopes to be playing again in mid-February.
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