ULSTER RUGBY: Kiss aware of the challenge ahead

Andrew Trimble is expected to be back in the white Ulster jersey this weekend.
Andrew Trimble is expected to be back in the white Ulster jersey this weekend.

To all intent and purpose it looks as though Leinster will be fully loaded for New Year Eve’s Guinness PRO12 Irish derby clash against a slightly weakened Ulster at the RDS, Dublin, as the clubs bring the curtains down on 2016.

The regular management of Irish internationals over the festive period means Provinces usually have them for one of the two derby games.

Certainly given the side Leinster lined-up with in their defeat to league leaders Munster on Boxing Day, it would seem they will be close to full strength for Saturday afternoon’s game.

Ulster expected to be without front line internationals Rory Best, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall and Iain Henderson, but director of rugby, Les Kiss, said they would be looking to manage their squad fully over the next few weeks right up to the start of the Six Nations period.

He also confirmed the side would be without South African prop, Wiehahn Herbst for at least two weeks after he pulled up with a calf issue during training on Tuesday.

However, Andrew Trimble has fully trained again this week and should be available after he failed to come through for the visit of Connacht last week. He has not played since injuring himself with Ireland during the November Test series.

Pete Brown is also expected to be available after finished a training session yesterday.

Pressed on who he may, or indeed not have, this weekend, Kiss explained: “The truth is we have had last week, this week and next week to work our what we are doing with our management of players. So we will hopefully know this afternoon when we will finalise selection.”

Pushed further, Kiss added: “There are also the two European games to consider. You still want to have the right players to have the right lead in to the Six Nations period as well, so you have to work it out that way.

“We will utilise this game and the next to rest a few players, not just the National players.”

Kiss did confirm that Rob Herring would captain the side and that he has spoken with him and co-captain Andrew Trimble about the situation.

“This would be Andrew’s first game back so we felt it best to let Rob take the captaincy.”

With Herbst unavailable, Ross Kane or Johnny Simpson could be called onto the bench.

Ulster’s 23-7 win over Connacht last Friday coupled with Scarlets loss at Ospreys this week ensured Kiss’s side held fourth place.

Leinster dropped to third after losing in Limerick to Munster - who are now seven points clear at the top and 10 ahead of Ulster - and that Ospreys home success over their Welsh rivals.

Leinster have not lost a home Guinness PRO12 game in 18 previous outings, a record that goes back to February 2015 when Newport Gwent Dragons were the last team to topple them.

They did lose to Toulon in the Champions Cup in December 2015, but Ulster’s record in Dublin has not been impressive.

They have won only once in the Irish capital against Leinster since 1999.

Kiss said it was a tough challenge his side faced.

“You sort of know what is likely to be in front of you from the side that played against Leinster.

“They trained the day after that loss to Munster simply because they had 15 different players to do so - and most of them were internationals. We just have to meet the challenge.”