I am a better player after nightmare injury spell, insists Olding

Ulster's Stuart Olding (Photo: SPORTSFILE)

Cian Tracey

"Always smile." For a man who has just lost almost two years of his career to injury, Stuart Olding's mantra for coping with the mental difficulties is admirable if nothing else.

The Ulster centre is one of the most naturally gifted players in this country but his progress has been hampered by a nightmare injury spell.

The 23-year-old made a welcome return from his latest setback for Ulster 'A' last weekend and now that he has a game under his belt, he has his sights firmly set on making up for lost time.

Olding's luckless run began in November 2013 when he ruptured his ACL playing for the 'A' team. That saw him miss the entire season and when he returned in January of last year, he suffered an elbow injury that ruled him out for another 10 weeks.

Just as he thought that the nightmare run was over, Olding suffered another season-ending ACL injury in March.

"I've missed a lot of rugby in the four or five years that I've been involved here but hopefully that's it behind me. I'm just looking forward now," Olding enthused.

"It was massively frustrating. My first game back after the elbow injury. . . to be out for nine months, it's not ideal. But these things are character building.

"It's a test of your personality to see how you react to these things. I've got my head down, worked hard and come back a better player. I've gotten quicker and stronger than I've ever been before so that gives me a lot of confidence.

"Always smile. That's a massive thing for me, just keeping a massive smile on my face. The other players all have their own problems going on, so coming into training, they don't need you bringing them down.

"Keep a smile on your face, go into every rehab session, every physio session every weights session with 100pc intent because who knows when it'll all be over?"

The injuries have limited Olding to just two Ireland caps. His time in a green jersey will come again but for now, his focus is on putting a run of games together with Ulster.

"With the Six Nations squad picked, a load of the backs are away and hopefully that's a chance for me to get a lot of game-time," he said.

"Hopefully I'll manage to get a starting berth by the end of the season. There's a hell of a lot of competition so I'd just be looking to get my foot in anywhere. Hopefully I'll be able to nail down 12."

Meanwhile, Ruan Pienaar (virus) and Chris Henry (shoulder) are likely to miss Saturday's trip to Treviso while Wiehahn Herbst (plantar fasciitis) is set for a spell on the sidelines.