Belfast Telegraph

No Kiss goodbye despite a triple Ulster injury blow

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster enter today's must-win Champions Cup clash with Oyonnax (1.00pm kick-off) minus key men Rory Best, Ruan Pienaar, Wiehahn Herbst and Stuart McCloskey, but Director of Rugby Les Kiss is still confident the province can book a quarter-final place.

His side needs a big win against the French and other results to go their way, but new Ireland captain Best starts on the bench with a back problem while Pienaar, suffering from a virus and Herbst, who has a foot injury, miss out altogether.

In addition, McCloskey is rested under player management protocols ahead of his first Six Nations.

Knowing his team requires a big score, Kiss vowed they would rise to the challenge.

"We've known since the weekend that we need a big win and we just have to face up to that," he said.

"They'll be tough, but we just have to back ourselves."

Should Ulster succeed, Kiss expects some of the others chasing last eight spots to suffer surprise defeats.

"We're optimistic that we can get the job done and with the unpredictability of this competition, there's a real chance for us to go through," he said. "The big spending teams are dominating the top five or six positions, but it doesn't mean you can't compete.

"We'll do our best and if we can get to that sixth spot or sevent, then that'd be great."

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