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No Kiss goodbye from gutsy Ulster in do-or-die clash

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss is under no illusion about the importance of this afternoon's do-or-die clash with Ospreys at Liberty Stadium (3pm kick-off) and has called on his players to stand up and deliver.

The last day of the Pro12 season has Ulster looking to stay in the fourth and final play-off spot and secure their place in the semi-finals later this month.

If Ulster match whatever points tally Scarlets take from their visit to Munster, Kiss and his men will be guaranteed no worse than an away trip to the table-toppers in the last four.

"It's massive, it really is," said the Australian.

"Last week (against Leinster) was massive and the players stood up and delivered. We've got to deliver again.

"It's important for us and it's important for a lot of people. There's a great chance for us to go through to the semis and we know what happens in semis.

"It becomes open and that's the nature of the competition. Anyone can beat anyone on a given day."

Top-scorer Craig Gilroy has recovered from a virus to take his place on the left wing in the only change to the side that beat Leinster by 30 points to six a week ago.

With the Irish international restored, Edinburgh-bound Rory Scholes drops out of the match-day 23.

The pack is the same that took on their southern neighbours seven days ago with Rory Best in between Callum Black and Ricky Lutton in the front-row and lock Pete Browne's leg injury not enough to stop him lining out alongside Franco van der Merwe in the engine room.

Sean Reidy is again named at number 8 with Chris Henry giving Ulster two natural opensides in their back-row and Iain Henderson wearing six.

Star half-back pairing Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson will be asked to control the tempo ahead of midfield duo Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall.

Joining Gilroy in the back-three are Irish internationals Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne.


The bench will also feature the same eight players who acted as replacements against Leinster with the likes of Roger Wilson, Stuart Olding and Darren Cave hoping to make an impact.


Only a bonus-point win would leave Ulster completely in control of their own destiny and, with Ospreys also needing four tries to boost their own hopes of Champions Cup rugby next year, Kiss is expecting an entertaining encounter.


"We understand that if both teams are trying to play footy it's an open, expansive game," he said. "I think if we're organised and disciplined like we were (against Leinster) we are able to score four tries.


"It's a good pitch, the boys love playing on it and that suits us. It's all to play for."


All six fixtures of the final round kick-off simultaneously at 3pm with each one set to have some bearing on either the play-offs or European qualification.


Ulster are looking to join champions Glasgow, surprise package Connacht and, barring an unfathomably large defeat at home to Treviso, Leinster in the semi-finals which will take place on May 20-21.


Meanwhile, Sean O'Brien's season has been cast into further doubt after Leo Cullen revealed that the flanker has suffered a setback in his rehab programme.


A bonus-point win would guarantee Leinster a home semi-final and Cullen is demanding a response after last weekend's defeat to Ulster.


"Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards and that's what we did," he said.


"Extra pressure is piled on when you don't get a result against Ulster. You have to take that. But I think the squad is in reasonably good shape."

Belfast Telegraph


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