GUINNESS PRO12: Time to take a break insists Ulster director Les Kiss

Chris Henry, Jacob Stockdale, Darren Cave and Stuart Olding congratulate Paul Marshall after he scores the bonus point try against Zebre in the PRO12
Chris Henry, Jacob Stockdale, Darren Cave and Stuart Olding congratulate Paul Marshall after he scores the bonus point try against Zebre in the PRO12

Those players in the Ulster squad who have the next two weeks off have been ordered to switch off from rugby.

Ulster, like most clubs, take a two-week break from Guinness PRO12 action.

While some of the players will be involved with the Ireland side on international duty with the Six Nations returning in the next two weeks, for those who have time off Ulster director of rugby, Les Kiss, has demanded they “take a complete break from rugby.”

Ulster remained in fourth place in the PRO12 table after a bonus point securing 32-0 win over Zebre at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast, on Friday night.

They closed the gap on third placed Scarlets and second placed Leinster, who both won their round 17 games with a regulation four points.

Ulster are two points behind Scarlets, six off Leinster and eight adrift of leaders, Connacht.

Behind Ulster, Munster are four points behind, but can close that gap on March 18 when they go to Cardiff Blues for an outstanding game.

Defending champions Glasgow, who defeated the Blues yesterday, remain in seventh place, eight points behind Ulster.

But they have two games in hand - the first of those at home to Leinster on March 18 which is crucial to both clubs and those chasing the play-offs.

When Ulster return to action on Friday, March 25, they travel to Scotstoun to take on Glasgow and a week later have leaders Connacht in Belfast.

And with games against Leinster (home) and Zebre and Ospreys (both away) to follow Kiss knows he needs to have his squad in as good a shape as possible for the run-in.

The victory against Zebre came after back-to-back losses in the PRO12 but it also ended a consecutive 16-match run of games in all competitions.

“It has been a demanding time,” admitted Kiss. “The past few weeks have been incredibly tough and that has shown a little in our form.

“We scraped two wins and then lost two games we should have nailed.

“But we are still right in the mix and in a good place going into the run-in to the end of the season.”

Kiss said for those who were getting a break he was encouraging them to switch off and use the break wisely.

“I want them to give back some time to those who put a lot of sacrifice in for them, such as their family or partner. .

“The back end of the season is going to be important. The end game is not over and it is going to be interesting in its own right.

“It is important that those who are able to step away and find space to re-energise and comeback and get back on the job.”

Ulster are unlikely to have those who have featured in most of Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations games and certainly those at home against Italy and Scotland in the next fortnight.

But they could be boosted by the return of internationals Tommy Bowe and Iain Henderson who have made good progress from injury.

“We will be in good shape for the run-in,” said Kiss.