Pressure on Ulster players to deliver performance: Stuart Olding

Ulster's Stuart Olding
Ulster's Stuart Olding

Weakened by injuries once again and likely to miss other front line internationals due to the IRFU player welfare programme Ulster will face double European champions Toulon as huge underdogs on Saturday at Stade Felix Mayol.

Toulon are looking to as good as secure a place in the last eight with a win, while Ulster, who sit bottom of the table, have basically pride at stake even if - at a long shot - they can still qualify mathematically.

Since suffering their third defeat in the Pool Three in Llanelli just before Christmas Ulster’s hopes of making the knockout stages for a fifth consecutive Euro campaign practically evaporated.

The focus has turned to the Guinness PRO12 since then and Ulster has struggled to find a performance but did end a poor run of away results with a win over Benetton Treviso last Sunday, albeit unconvincingly 24-20.

Few are giving Ulster any chance in France and it is hard not to see anything other than a win for Toulon with their star studded cast - even if they have suffered recent defeats in the Top 14.

However, Ulster are certainly not writing themselves off and the players are putting themselves under pressure to out and perform against one of the best sides in Europe.

Irish centre, Stuart Olding, said: “There is pressure on us to over there and get a performance.

“In the first half of the games against Leinster and Treviso we played probably some of our best rugby this season.

“Then we let it slip off a bit.

“There is a huge amount of pressure on the boys coming into this team to put their hands up, test themselves against the best in the world and put on their best performance.

“I think we have the ability to do it and it is just a case of getting our mind set right.”

One of the players Olding is likely to come up against is Matt Giteau, a player the Irish centre admires.

““He is left footed like myself, he loves to play with the ball in his hand and has a good running game.

“I have always admired him growing up and watching him play, he has had a big influence on my game with the style of rugby I like and the style of rugby I try to play.

“It would be good to play against him again. He is an incredible player and he has certainly proved himself in world rugby and now over in European rugby.”

Olding has yet to nail a position down and it is something he is keen to progress in the coming months.

“I have played in a few positions over the last two or three years. I like playing 12 and that is where I want to play and hopefully I can get plenty of game time there and get a good run of games and just build momentum.

“I think if I just keep playing their the confidence will grow and I’ll be more comfortable there.”