Thursday 13 December 2018

Gilroy back for Ulster and keen to rule over Kings

The 26-year-old had missed the start of the season with a back injury. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
The 26-year-old had missed the start of the season with a back injury. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile Sportsdesk

Ulster winger Craig Gilroy is calling on his team-mates to cap off a great week in Port Elizabeth with a win over the Southern Kings in their Guinness PRO14 meeting today.

Gilroy returns to the starting line-up for the first time this season for the clash at Isaac Wolfson Stadium (kick-off 1.0) and will make his 150th appearance for his province.

The 26-year-old had missed the start of the season with a back injury; however, he is restored to the starting line-up as one of ten changes to Les Kiss' side as he is forced to reshuffle his pack due to international call-ups.

But Gilroy believes that a win in South Africa would leave a great memory of an enjoyable week for the squad in unfamiliar territory. "It's been a great week after a long day travelling," the former Methody star says. "We've enjoyed each other's company and the weather's been great out here. But at the end of the day we're here for a reason, we're here to get the points and win (today's) game and that's what will make it a really enjoyable week."

It's a big game for the Belfast man, who will finally make his 150th provincial appearance after several months of waiting following injury.

However, it hasn't deterred Gilroy, who says he's just happy to finally reach the milestone. "I'm delighted, I've been sitting on 149 for about five or six months so it's good to finally get it," he laughs.

"I had that stint out where I was injured, had to do a lot of rehab to get back, but it's great to finally be back and it's an added bonus I can mark it with the milestone of my 150th."

The injury itself was an agonising one, not only due to its location but also at the start of the season when most players want to make their mark in a squad. And it's especially frustrating, as Gilroy explains, whenever there's a new coaching set-up to impress.

"The worst thing for me was the pre-season we had was probably one of the most enjoyable pre-seasons I've had with Ulster in my tenure," he laments. "I felt I was in the best shape in terms of fitness. Then to be sidelined for nine weeks it was kind of frustrating, but I kept myself busy and stayed positive during training and my rehab.

"I just kept ticking over, and the most important thing was to get myself right and be able to play again."

Ulster - who will be captained by Chris Henry - are entering into the unknown given this is their first meeting with the Southern Hemisphere side. Kieran Treadwell, a member of Ireland's squad for the November Series, has been released to be paired with Alan O'Connor in the second-row.

Verdict: Ulster

ULSTER - C Piutau; C Gilroy, L Ludik, D Cave, A Trimble; C Leali'ifano, J Cooney; A Warwick, J Andrew, W Herbst, K Treadwell, A O'Connor, M Rea, C Henry (capt), S Reidy. Reps: A McBurney, C Black, R Kane, R Diack, C Ross, J Stewart, T Bowe.

Southern Kings v Ulster,

Live, BBC2 NI, 1.0

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