Mike Stanley could be Ulster’s centre of attention

GETTING TO KNOW THE DRILL: New signing, Mike Stanley (centre) goes through backline moves with Craig Gilroy (left) and Louis Ludik
GETTING TO KNOW THE DRILL: New signing, Mike Stanley (centre) goes through backline moves with Craig Gilroy (left) and Louis Ludik

Samoan international fly-half, Mike Stanley, could be poised to get his first Ulster start on Sunday at centre.

The New Zealand born Stanley arrived in Belfast just over two weeks ago on a short-term deal to provide cover for the injured Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

The 25-year-old can cover outhalf and centre and although he made his debut with a cameo appearance off the bench last week in the Guinness PRO12 against Scarlets, he could be slotted into the midfield for Sunday’s trip to Newport.

Ulster’s preparations for that game against Dragons have been hampered as a result of the citings of centre, Luke Marshall and number eight Roger Wilson for alleged incidents during last week’s game in Belfast.

The duo will appear before an independent disciplinary panel on Thursday morning in Edinburgh.

Any suspensions would have a major impact on head coach Neil Doak’s selections.

“We are used to things being a bit disruptive during this time of the season with the Six Nations on,” said Doak.

“But this just adds to the situation, as well as the fact we have players still rehabbing from injuries.

“We have a number of permutations in mind while we wait for the outcome of the hearings.”

Meanwhile, Ulster prop Callum Black is enjoying life at the Kingspan Stadium.

The loose head prop has started the last four games which were all victories and he has been rewarded with a new three year contract.

“It was good to get the contract sorted and know where I am for the next three years. I’m really settled here and enjoy playing for the side,” said Black.

“It is good to get that run of starts where I can try to find a bit of form and push on and try to improve as a player, it is great that we are winning at the moment and just keep that momentum going,

“This block of four games are really vital for us as a squad and we knew we had to win everyone to get up in the playoff spots and I have been just glad to start them.”

Ulster have won all their games during the Six Nations to date and are within a point of PRO12 leaders, Glasgow, and Black isn’t worried that it hasn’t been all champagne rugby.

“We said that this block of four was vital and we had to win all them,” he said.

“That was the target and we haven’t looked any further, it’s a case that we have won the first three and have one more to go we have a week off after this.

“So it is one final push and we need to win this game and keep building because it is so tight and we need to be in that top four come the end of the season.”

“The win comes first, some of the games haven’t been the prettiest then again sometimes if you are winning ugly it isn’t the worst thing.

“When we click I don’t think there are many teams that can live with the way we play.”

“We come in each morning after the weekend and work on what has gone wrong and try to prefect those little things that can turn us into a top side and hopefully win this competition.”

Black, Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst hare forming a formidable front row unit.

“It has been pleasing the way things have been going. We put a lot of emphasis on our set piece. As a front row we do a lot of work both on the pitch and analysis coming up to games and whoever is put in the front row has that responsibility to lay the platform up front.and hopefully the backs can run in the tries.”

Black thought Ulster should have had a penalty try against the Scarlets.

“I think it was a set of scrums where the first two scrums we were through for a penalty try but on the last one we took it out and managed to score that way, however we score a try doesn’t bother us as long as we get over the line.”

Black is having a big battle with Andy Warwick for the No1 shirt and he thinks it is helping his game.

“Its healthy competition, me and Andy are good mates and we help each other out whoever has the start that week, we train against each other in the week leading up to games and we do our analysis on the opposition together.”

“It is good competition and the start of the year Andy was getting picked in front of me and I knew I had to up my game and I think the competition just makes you a better player and I just have to keep on my toes because if I’m not performing well Andy is ready just to slot straight into the team and everyone knows he’ll do a great job.”

The Dragons are 10th in the table but have beat the defending champions in their own back yard this season.

“We realise they are a side that you can’t under estimate and that is something Leinster probably did and from them to get a result at the RDS was massive, we have put a lot of work into them this week and we know they are at home and haven’t many disruptions from the Welsh set up, they are a pretty settled side and it will be a battle they will be aggressive and we’ll have to take it to them from the start and don’t let them get up in the game work away and stick to our game plan put in a good performance and come away with the win.”

“Rodney Parade is a funny old ground, they have tiny changing rooms and it can be a hostile crowd because it is quite an enclosed pitch, we have spoke about building our on buzz and atmosphere and just stick to what we are about and not listen to anything else that is going on.”