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Stuart Olding keen to be Ulster's perfect 10 after Zebre rout

By Jonathan Bradley

With 24 candles on the cake and a ten on his back, Stuart Olding had something of a birthday to remember against Zebre on Saturday. A centre by trade, Olding was man-of-the-match as the Kingspan outfit ran in ten tries against their Italian visitors, scoring one and having a hand in plenty more.

The province have been keen to see his play-making skills in action from out-half for a while and, when given the opportunity to impress from the start, he didn't disappoint.

While Paddy Jackson is the undisputed starter in the position, Ulster have been seeking a reliable back-up with their main man increasingly involved with Ireland and therefore unavailable during international windows.

Ian Humphreys was brought home, but since retired with both the departed Sam Windsor and youngster Brett Herron also being handed a chance.

While Pete Nelson has provided a steady hand in recent weeks, his preferred position remains in the back-three.

If Olding can replicate his showing from Saturday, it could fill a real hole in Les Kiss's squad.

But after Ulster established new records for tries and points scored with him at the helm, the academy product did hint that sterner challenges will lie ahead.

"That's a nice game to be playing 10 in," he admitted.

"As (Ulster head coach) Neil Doak had said to me during the week, it's about organise, organise, organise so I was trying not to take too much on myself and just organise the guys around me.

"But they made my job a hell of a lot easier out there.

"I was just trying to be the link man between the scrum-halves and the rest of the players.

"To score 10 tries in any game, we're delighted with that."

Ulster have no game this weekend but will reconvene shortly to focus on next Friday's trip to Dragons. If there is much to be gained from a video review of a 68-21 win, Olding believes the team will have to look at a defence that shipped a trio of scores to the PRO12's worst side.

"We are annoyed at ourselves for letting in those three tries and I was probably at fault for two of them so I'm pretty annoyed at myself for that," he added.

"But we'll go away now and enjoy our break. We know we can't switch off as we've a hard run to the end of the season."

But will Jackson regain his spot when he returns from Six Nations duty?

"He can wear 22 now," Olding concluded with a laugh.

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