Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Ulster

Ulster have yet to hit top gear in title drive, warns Stuart Olding

By Jonathan Bradley

As he prepares to take on Leinster in this weekend's crunch PRO12 tie at the Kingspan, Stuart Olding has promised there is plenty more to come from both himself and Ulster.

The province wrested control of their play-off destiny with a comprehensive win over Zebre last time out but a loss to their old inter-pro rivals on Saturday would likely surrender the advantage right back to Scarlets in the battle for a top-four place.

For Olding, securing a spot in the semi-finals is just the first step with victory in next month's Murrayfield final still the goal.

"We're just focused on what we have to do," said the twice-capped Irish international.

"We're in fourth at the minute with two games left and we're doing all we can to stay there. Anything can happen in knock-out rugby once you get there.

"That's one thing that we haven't forgotten; we're still in with a serious chance of getting some silverware. It's about time that we did that. I think we're deserving of it too, maybe not with some of the performances this season but with the work that the guys have put in.

"We want to push on, get into the play-offs, and then come away with something."

Leo Cullen's men visit Belfast all but mathematically assured of a play-off spot but are still fighting for the all-important right to host their semi-final and Olding expects "something special" as the rivals clash with so much on the line.

"The inter-pros are always fun and have a lot of build-up but at this stage, with the position we're both in, each team is going to give their all and that should make for a great game," he said. "We need to win our last two and that'll be tough against a Leinster side who are going well and top of the league but hopefully we're in for a good day.

"There's something special about Ulster against Leinster, especially at home, and there's been a lot of great games up here in the past. We're looking forward to it; I'm sure everyone is."

While Leinster come into the contest first in the league, Ulster have a recent blueprint for knocking off visiting table-toppers. When last at the Kingspan, Pat Lam's Connacht travelled north sitting at the PRO12's summit only to leave on the wrong end of an 18-10 scoreline.

"We had a good night against Connacht," recalled Olding. "They maybe weren't at full strength but we did well against them. It was an inter-pro, they were at the top and we needed to knock them off to get the win. It's the same with Leinster."

Saturday will represent Olding's 10th appearance of the season, a comeback from the second serious ACL injury of his short career that he feels is on track.

The 23-year-old was man of the match in Parma two weekends ago and is thrilled to once again be an integral part of a backline unit he feels is brimming with quality and sure to improve when All Black Charles Piutau arrives in the summer.

"I'm very happy with where I'm at," he said. "I don't think I'm as good as I can be but hopefully I'll get there and it'll be soon.

"Our backline, especially next year with Charles Piutau coming in, it's going to be one heck of a competition to get in the side and that's great for us. Whenever we click, we can do some serious damage."

If Leinster are on the receiving end on Saturday, Ulster's play-off hopes will look all the healthier.

Stuart Olding was speaking on behalf of Remus Uomo, official clothing partner to Ulster Rugby.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph