Stuart McCloskey and Rob Herring boost for Ulster against Treviso in Italy
STUART McCloskey and Rob Herring have been temporarily released from Ireland duty and are free to play for Ulster in Saturday's PRO14 game with Treviso in Italy.
The duo were included in head coach Joe Schmidt's initial 42-man panel for the autumn internationals but, along with Ulster team mates Rory Best and Iain Henderson, were among the players omitted from the squad to face Italy in Chicago at the weekend
Midfielder McCloskey was one of Ulster's star performers in the 36-18 win over the Dragons when he scored two of the five tries while Herring came off the bench to replace Best at hooker.
However, Craig Gilroy is unlikely to be fit for the game in Treviso after suffering a back spasm in the warm-up last Friday night while there are doubts over two of the Academy players, who impressed on Friday night.
Full-back Michael Lowry, who got on the score sheet with his first try for the province and debutant Robert Baloucoune are receiving treatment for quad and groin injuries respectively.
Ulster assistant coach Dwayne Peel rated the display against the Dragons as an 'okay performance' but stressed that there is room for improvement ahead of Saturday's game.
"That's the best way to describe it I think - there were positives like the way we finished some good plays and, overall, with a bonus-point win you've got to be happy," said the Welshman.
"There are always going to be elements that you're going to be unhappy with and I still think there is more in us."
With a host of retirements going into the season added to a lengthy injury-list, Ulster have been forced to blood young guns like Lowry and Balacoune is recent weeks and Peel has been pleased with their progress.
"We have been relying on the younger players to step up and, to be honest, there aren't too many more left to pick from," he added.
"They have got a lot of potential and they are working very hard but it's important not to put too much pressure on them.
"The biggest thing is that they have got experienced players around them with the likes of Stu, Will (Addison) and Henry (Speight) and that helps massively."
Ulster had to work hard for their two wins over Treviso last season as they came away with a 21-14 success in Italy and then had to rely on a late converted try to secure a 23-22 victory in Belfast.
Peel believes they are an even better side 12 months on and, currently they are just five points behind Ulster although they lost 31-3 at home to Leinster at the weekend.
"The boys have responded well this week in training and we will take a lot of energy into the Treviso game but there is definitely no room for complacency," he warned.
"They are really strong, especially at home but even away from home this season, they were a missed conversion short of beating Edinburgh and they also ran Scarlets close.
"We will have to match their physicality, intensity and line-speed and take our chances when they come along.
"Even against Leinster, Treviso made them work really hard for their tries and, with this being the end of a block of games for us, we want to finish it on a high."