Belfast Telegraph

Ulster key men Stockdale and Ludik will be back for Glasgow showdown

 

Jacob Stockdale
Jacob Stockdale
Louis Ludik
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland says he will have no concerns about throwing Jacob Stockdale and Louis Ludik straight back into the firing line in tomorrow night's crunch tie with Glasgow Warriors, should they prove their fitness.

The key pair have been out of action with injuries but are expected to provide a huge boost and be named in the squad for the province's PRO14 semi-final in Glasgow's Scotstoun stadium (7.35pm kick-off).

Stockdale hasn't played since the middle of last month while Ludik has been out even longer, not featuring since the win over Southern Kings back in March.

McFarland is sure both men would be ready for the cut and thrust of knock-out rugby despite the lay-offs.

"Definitely," he said when asked if the pair could be ready. "It's one of the things that has changed in rugby over the last 10 years. The very nature of players who, some of them are internationals who play test rugby and then come back and play for their clubs.

"There are a lot of times when players get injured and take a period of time, but they're used to coming straight back into the team.

"Obviously the more experience they get, the better they are at that.

"The days of saying, 'Well, he's been out for six weeks and he needs two weeks playing at a lower level before he comes back in', they've gone.

"Jacob is reintegrating. We won't really know until we select the team, but we'd be hopeful. "Ludik is another one we'll have to see as the week goes on, but he's made pretty steady progress so there's potential he might be available too."

Rust will be seen as a talking point for Glasgow too with the Warriors having not played since the final weekend of April.

They were defeated at this stage last year having been similarly inactive in the weeks prior to the game, becoming the first home side to lose a PRO14 semi-final when Scarlets won at Scotstoun.

"Glasgow won't be undercooked," warned McFarland.

McFarland added: “Dave Rennie is a Championship-winning coach with a lot of experience and last year in his first year in charge, they did so well out of the blocks.

“They ended up not playing as well as they had previously in the season and then suffered in the semi-final, but Dave Rennie won’t make that mistake again.

“From reading everything that they’re talking about, they’ll definitely not be undercooked.

“The stats will tell you their attack is extremely potent.

“They have some world-class players in their back three — the likes of Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, DTH van der Merwe, Niko Matawalu, these are all guys that can break the game.

“Playing in the centre, they have any number of people who can do a job on you.

“I’m a big admirer of Sam Johnson, he’s a terrific player, good ball player, he’s got a wicked body swerve that you don’t see coming and he’s able to beat you in a very tight space.

“And obviously in the half-backs, they have Ali Price and Adam Hastings, there’s youthful exuberance there, and there’s talent in terms of picking holes.

“Athletically they’re very gifted and they play with no fear which when you have the talent they have around them, that’s potentially very dangerous.

“Up front, their forwards have been excellent this year, they’re much stronger than they were last year and they demonstrated that against us at Scotstoun the last day by taking penalties off us at the scrum and spoiling our line-out. They scored a maul try which was really disappointing, they’ve got threats everywhere.”

Ulster provide seven players to the Irish U-20s extended squad ahead of next month’s World Championships in Argentina.

Angus Kernohan, Stewart Moore, Bruce Houston and Iwan Hughes have all made the cut in the backline, while forwards Callum Reid, Azur Allison and David McCann have also been included in the 32-man panel.

A travelling party of 28 will be selected before the side make their way to Argentina where they will face Australia, England and Italy in a testing pool.

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