Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Ravenhill squad getting stronger

By Niall Crozier

Contrary to serious concerns in the aftermath of Friday night's 14-8 RaboDirect PRO12 defeat by Edinburgh, injury-ravaged Ulster appear to have emerged intact from Murrayfield.

Full-back Jared Payne – making his first appearance since January 4 – looked to be in trouble once again in the closing stages.

So too did 20-year-old Stuart Olding, coach Mark Anscombe's only current number 12 option.

But last night came the news that both will be fit for Saturday night's date with new PRO12 leaders, Leinster, at the RDS.

Olding's injury was confirmed as nothing more serious than soft tissue, while the Payne was said to be "absolutely fine".

Nor are there any concerns over any of the other knocks and bangs. Hooker Rob Herring, scrum-half Paul Marshall and wing Andrew Trimble all have bruising, but none of it is giving any cause for concern.

Nor did the much-needed good news end there, for in addition to there being no fresh injury concerns, Ulster expect to have some of their badly missed big names back for this weekend.

Scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and open-side Chris Henry are expected to return, and No 8 Roger Wilson should be available for selection, too.

As well as that, Ulster's belief at this stage is that inside-centre Luke Marshall – who suffered successive concussions in the space of seven days whilst on Ireland duty against France in Dublin and Italy in Rome – will be ready for the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Saracens at Twickenham on April 6.

Former Ulster player and coach Mark McCall was impressed by his team yesterday, Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens tuning up for the big clash with a 27-12 win over defending champions Harlequins at Allianz Park.

McCall said: "As a team we played really well.

"Our tackling game caused them some problems and we scored our tries at the right times."

Belfast Telegraph

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