Olding makes first start for Ulster

Olding makes first start for Ulster

Ireland U20 outhalf Stuart Olding will make his first start for Ulster at a sold out Ravenhill on Friday night against Ospreys.

The 19-year-old, a Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy graduate, has made three previous appearances, all as a replacement for the RaboDirect PRO12 leaders.

During a visit to Camphill Primary School in Ballymena on Thursday, injured winger Tommy Bowe said it was a great opportunity for the fledgling player.

"Stu is a very exciting prospect, I've seen bits and pieces of him all through the pre-season and part of this season so I think he is a great prospect for Ulster rugby in the future and I think it's a great opportunity for him to go into this weekend," he said.

Johann Muller has returned from injury to captain the side, as has Luke Marshall, who will line out in the unfamiliar outside centre position.

Ballymena prop Andrew Warwick is in line to make his senior debut for the Province after being named on the bench.

Callum Black will start at loosehead prop so Tom Court moves to the other side of the scrum with Rob Herring as hooker.

Lewis Stevenson retains his place in the second row beside Muller, despite the return to action of Dan Tuohy who is among the replacements. Mike McComish and Ali Birch get opportunities in the back row alongside Robbie Diack.

Olding will be surrounded by experience in the form of Ruan Pienaar (scrumhalf) and Paddy Wallace (inside centre). Outside Marshall at 13 will be Andrew Trimble and Michael Allen on the wings, with Ricky Andrew at fullback.

The bench features 21-year-old Warwick and Belfast Harlequins duo Niall Annett and Ricky Lutton as the front row cover.

Tuohy and Neil McComb will offer plenty of options, particularly in the line out, if they are called upon, while Paul Marshall, Darren Cave and Chris Cochrane are the backline subs.

With the squad affected by players on international duties as well as injuries, Bowe said the upside was that young players like Olding were being given an opportunity to shine.

He added: "It's obviously difficult losing out on some key international players but I think it just shows the strength and depth that we have in the Ulster squad, you have young players and other guys who haven't had too much rugby to come in, put their hand up and really push for a place going into the next stage of the competition."

But he said Friday's game would not be an easy one as he expects the Ospreys to be on top form.

"They are going quite well in the last couple of months, they are going to be a great threat," he said.

"It's going to be a great game."

Ulster XV squad:
(15-9): R Andrew, A Trimble, L Marshall, P Wallace, M Allen; S Olding, R Pienaar;
(1-8): C Black, R Herring, T Court, J Muller (capt), L Stevenson, M McComish, A Birch, R Diack;
Replacements (16-23): N Annett, R Lutton, A Warwick, D Tuohy, N McComb, P Marshall, D Cave, C Cochrane.

Ulster v Ospreys, RaboDirect PRO12- Ravenhill, Friday 8 February, kick off 7.05pm.


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