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Ulster chasing silverware bonus as they prepare to meet Ospreys

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss will be taking every step necessary to ensure his players are kept aware of exactly what they need to book a place in the Pro12 semi-finals throughout their meeting with Ospreys on Saturday.

The final weekend of the season has proven to be a dream scenario for competition organisers with all six games carrying varying degrees of consequence and Ulster's fate will be linked to that of Scarlets against Munster in Thomond Park.

Should the Welsh region be in a position to claim maximum points, Kiss's side would need to target a four-try bonus in order to be sure of staying in the final play-off spot.

Ulster will however be guaranteed a semi-final place should they match whatever result Scarlets achieve in Limerick.

French side Clermont Auvergne were knocked out of this season's Champions Cup after going for a try in the last minute of their final pool game when Morgan Parra failed to realise a successful kick for the posts would have landed them a quarter-final spot.

Kiss will ensure his men do not fall foul to a similar gaffe.

"We know the permutations that exist," he said yesterday.

"Bonus points elsewhere can put us under real pressure. Ospreys will be absolutely chasing it and we know they need it (to qualify for next season's Champions Cup).

"A try bonus for us is the deal to put it to bed. We understand that.

"I will talk to the key leaders before the game and if there's information they get during the game, they will know how to handle it.

"They've got that capacity as professional good rugby players.

"If there's 20 (minutes) to go and we know that Munster have won the game, I don't want to regress our game and shrink (but) we can certainly temper some of the decisions we'll need to make.

"If we get a penalty we can go for the poles and not risk certain things. If it's in the balance we'll be making informed decisions."

Wing Craig Gilroy will return to the side after missing last week's big win over Leinster due to a virus but Tommy Bowe will again be out of action.

The vastly experienced Irish international made a try-scoring comeback after six months on the sidelines when bagging a brace against Zebre three weeks ago but has struggled since.

"Tommy is not going to play this weekend," confirmed Kiss.

"(It's) nothing major, he just won't be right this weekend. There's nothing majorly structural. We're just working out what's the best way to manage it so we get it right.

"We could try and force him through this year and that would maybe interfere with how he can prepare for next year.

"We're just trying to work out all the stuff to make sure it's right for Tommy."

Lock Pete Browne, back-rower Chris Henry and winger Andrew Trimble all picked up minor knocks last weekend but took part in yesterday's training session.

Should all three come through unscathed, their fitness would be a huge boost to the side given other absentees in their positions.

Tight-head prop Wiehahn Herbst - out of action since the away reverse to Saracens at Allianz Park in January - was also back on the paddock with Kiss intimating a return in time for a potential semi-final in mid-May was the likely scenario.

"Pete trained and we'll wait to see what the response is but it seemed okay," said Kiss.

"Chris has a slight little knee injury but he seems good. Trimby had a knee injury but he's managed to run (yesterday) and that all seems good.

"Wiehahn has done some scrums and he did some contact (yesterday) with Joe Barakat. He's getting better and better and closer and closer.

"He's probably going to be a bit underdone in terms of fitness for a big guy like that.

"It's nice that Ricky (Lutton) and Andy Warwick have been doing well with Bronson Ross waiting in the wings."



Guinness Pro12 League:

Liberty Stadium , Saturday 3.00pm

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