Olding's 'A' team return is a welcome lift for Kiss
Stuart Olding makes his eagerly anticipated comeback tonight when he lines out for Ulster 'A' in their final B&I Cup clash at Bristol (kick-off 7.45pm).
Even though it is a dead rubber for Ulster 'A' - who have, yet again, failed to make the quarter-finals - there will be considerable interest in how Olding fares after being out for 10 months with another knee injury which required surgery.
The 22-year-old was struck down in his comeback game against Cardiff Blues last March - after returning from two months out with an elbow issue - which ended the Ireland international's season and ruled him out of last autumn's World Cup.
The luckless Olding missed most of the 2013-14 season due to a similar ACL injury to the same knee which, incidentally, was picked up playing for the 'A' side, then known as the Ravens.
Olding has been selected at outside centre for tonight's 'A' game and could not have been involved with the senior side this week as he is not registered for the pool stages of the Champions Cup.
Assuming he comes through unscathed from his first game-time in nearly a year, Olding's return is, indeed, timely for Les Kiss. The former Belfast Royal Academy pupil can cover all backline positions bar scrum-half though, with Paddy Jackson surely in Ireland camp for the duration, a starting place at out-half for Ulster's next batch of PRO12 matches looks the most likely option.
Regarding tonight's game, Ulster 'A' coach Alex Codling has made a number of changes from the side which lost 22-17 to Bedford Blues at Deramore last Friday to end their hopes of making the B&I Cup's last eight.
The only other alteration to the backline sees Conor Young at scrum-half for Dave Shanahan while, in the forwards, Ross Kane is in for Bronson Ross - the latter now needing to provide cover for the senior side's injured Wiehahn Herbst - and the now fit Stephen Mulholland takes Nick Timoney's place in the back row.
Ulster will be seeking to sign off on a positive note from what has been a disappointing campaign - three defeats in five games - and will want to record the double over English Championship leaders Bristol after seeing them off at the Kingspan.
Bristol, who are second in the pool, will be going all out to register a bonus point as they are five behind leaders Bedford Blues and will be aiming to make it through as a best runner-up.
Ulster 'A' second row Peter Browne said: "It's massively important to us as a team (to sign off with a win). We're looking to put in a good performance, on a good pitch against a good team.
"I think it's important for us to build on last week (the narrow loss to Bedford) which was a much better performance than the defeat against Scarlets."
Meanwhile, there are two rearranged AIL games this weekend in Division 2B with Rainey meeting leaders City of Derry in an Ulster derby and Armagh travelling to Seapoint.
Ulster 'A' line-up v Bristol: R McBurney, R Lyttle, S Olding, S Windsor, J Stockdale, J McPhillips, C Young; A Warwick, J Andrew, R Kane, J Donnan, P Browne, S Mulholland, C Joyce, L Dow. Replacements: J Murphy, J Simpson, M Lagan, A Thompson, C Boomer, L Free, A Magrath.