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Ulster must move on to deliver on the pitch after Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's departures, says Herring

Ulster vs Glasgow; Guinness PRO14 Championship; Kingspan Stadium, Saturday, 6pm

By Jonathan Bradley

Somehow looking to put recent tumult and fallout behind them, Ulster will be in Guinness PRO14 action this weekend facing a must-win game against Glasgow to keep their play-off hopes alive.

A rearranged fixture after snow scrubbed the original date, the visit of the Scottish high-flyers (Saturday, 6:05pm kick-off) comes with the Warriors having already secured top spot in Conference A and sure of a home semi-final come the middle of May.

Ulster's own situation is rife with far greater end-of-season tension, the province knowing they need a bonus-point win to have any hope of overhauling Edinburgh for the final play-off spot, while also maintaining a crucial buffer to Benetton in the race to ensure Champions Cup rugby.

Looking to draw a line under recent off-the-field controversies, Rob Herring read a prepared statement yesterday with regards to his departing team-mates.

Last month, Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of raping the same woman at the former's home in June 2016.

After an internal review was undertaken by Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union, the players were informed they would not be able to continue with Ulster or Ireland, with a statement to that effect released some 12 hours after the side had beaten Ospreys last Friday night.

"It is with a great deal of sadness that the players and pro staff have learnt of this outcome," he said. "We know that the two boys will be successful both on and off the pitch wherever they go.

"As a group, we have to move on and our full focus is now on Glasgow this weekend.

"It's news that's out there now. We'll have to move quickly to a massive game against Glasgow."

Instilling a sense of normality to proceedings, Dwayne Peel reported that the province would be without promising back-rower Matty Rea for the game.

Having made his debut for the side in the season's opening game, the 24-year-old has been a regular feature since and was named man of the match in last week's crucial win over Ospreys.

He has, however, succumbed to a leg injury with Peel unsure if that game will prove to be his last involvement of the season. The former Wales and Lions scrum-half confirmed that out-half Johnny McPhillips would be available after departing the scene in the first half last week.

Having won two games in a row, Peel believes the momentum has carried into this week's early training.

"Definitely, we had a bit more of a clarity day (Monday), getting boys' bodies back into good shape and them training well. We had a good session and it is a big game for us this week," he said.

"It is a big prep week for us. We know the quality Glasgow have got and it is a big game leading on from the last couple of good weeks, it's been nice to keep the momentum going for us.

"Back-to-backs, it's huge to get that really. In the last two weeks, the training intensity has been really good and we've carried that through into the games, so to get that is great for the confidence of the group.

"If you look at the Ospreys game as a whole, yeah we are disappointed in many aspects where we could have finished a lot of opportunities off, but we created a fair few and we were good value with the ball I thought.

"Defensively, when we had opportunities to defend - I know the territory and possession were highly in our favour - but the boys defensively were very good. It shows a good level of intent from everyone."

After beating Ospreys, Ulster may well have expected to have secured at least their place in a Champions Cup play-off against the same opposition, courtesy of finishing fourth in their conference, by the end of the weekend only for Benetton to secure a surprise win over Leinster in Dublin some 24 hours later.

While Ulster's near neighbours did not field a full-strength side, as is their wont having taken care of their own business and having this weekend's Champions Cup semi-final to think about, it was another sign of the improving strength of the Italian side this season.

Having won 11 of their 20 games in the league this campaign, they trail Ulster by only a point and indeed their positions in the table would be reversed if it was not for Andrew Trimble's late, late try to steal a win when the two sides met at Kingspan Stadium back in November.

Peel, though, maintains that his side are not looking nervously below them.

"If I am being totally honest, it is not something we have spoken about," he said. "We have just spoken about ourselves and that has been good for us the last couple of weeks, we are in control of our own performance.

"We obviously want to look up and we understand that Edinburgh do need to slip up, but we cannot control that - all we can do is push forward. We have two big games left for us and we will prep as if we have a lot at stake.

"I think having that buzz every week is good and coming down to the end of the season it's good to still be in the hunt.

"The performance in Edinburgh was excellent for us because we had a few disappointing results before that, going away to Scarlets and stuff.

"So that Edinburgh game was big because our away form hasn't been as good as we'd like and there's no secret of that.

"But it was a good performance and our intensity was very good.

"To be in the hunt is great, and hopefully we can stay in it because we're starting to pick up a bit of momentum. If we can carry that through and we end up getting up somewhere then I don't think a lot of sides will fancy us."

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