Belfast Telegraph

Stuart Olding sets his sights on Six Nations return

By Jonathan Bradley

Rather than cursing his luck following a second serious knee injury in as many seasons, Ulster's Stuart Olding is already targeting an Ireland recall.

Having missed most of last season with a ruptured ACL, the inside centre injured the same joint in the March contest with Cardiff Blues, ending both his season and World Cup hopes, but he expects to come back stronger once again.

Having made his international bow on the Les Kiss led tour to north America in 2013, the first of his troublesome knee injuries ensured he had to wait until November of last year for his second cap and the experience of working his way back into Ireland green is one he is focussed on repeating.

Speaking after meeting pupils at his old school Ben Madigan Prep, he commented: "Like I said last time, one of the aims is to play for Ireland again as quick as possible so that might come in the Six Nations.

"For now though, it's day-by-day. I went to see the surgeon on Tuesday and he's happy with the progress. I'm happy too so if that's the case then we'll kick on and I'm looking to be returning for Ulster in December or January."

The road to recovery will be a long one for the 22-year-old, but he is pleased with the range of motion he has already achieved in a short space of time.

The last Ulster fans will have seen of the Hughes Academy graduate was ahead of the Munster game a fortnight ago when he sported a knee brace.

In the interim, the support has been lost and he this week progressed to bike work.

"I've been in the gym for five weeks and then on Tuesday was able to start on the bike and the cross-trainer," he said.

"It was good to finally get on the bike, we'd tried a couple of times, I just didn't have the movement yet in the knee, but that's come back now.

"I'm a lot more confident on it now, walking about on it and stuff.

"Having done it before, I sort of know the stages that I'll be able to do stuff and be comparing as I go along to see if I can get back a bit quicker than last time."

While seemingly taking the setback with admirable serenity, Olding admits that watching the conclusion to Ulster's season from the sidelines has been a frustration.

"It's difficult to watch the games," he said.

"If you know our gameplan and then things aren't going right you want to get out there and have an impact but it's something that you have to come to terms with."

And while not the most contented of spectators, staying connected with the group is a boost to morale during lengthy rehab.

"Some of my best friends are on the team so I'll try to stay involved as much as I can," he said.

"The camaraderie and the friends I've made at Ulster, has had a huge impact on my life."

Those same friends, as well as Ulster fans, will hope Olding is soon back alongside them come matchdays.

Stuart Olding was speaking as a former pupil of Ben Madigan Prep ahead of a Fun Day for the school to be held on May 30.

Belfast Telegraph

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