Ulster scrum-half Nathan Doak impressed against Zebre in his first start for the province, and the teenager looks set to feature for the third game in a row this Friday versus Benetton.

The 19-year-old made his first Ulster start in Saturday's bonus point win in Italy, following on from his try-scoring appearance off the bench eight days earlier against the Glasgow Warriors, when he was an in-game replacement for the injured John Cooney.

And while Ulster haven't put a timeline on Cooney's return from a hamstring injury, they have ruled him out of this Friday's visit of Rainbow Cup champions Benetton.

That means a likely appearance for Doak again, who will be vying with David Shanahan for a starting place in the team.

The scrum-half comes from quality rugby stock, his father Neil is a former Ulster scrum-half and attack coach.

Forwards coach Roddy Grant says they've been impressed with the way their academy star has settled into senior rugby.

"It's been really pleasing, especially for him that he's come in and played well," Grant told RTÉ.ie.

"At the weekend I thought he did a really good job, some of his kicking was excellent, the Glasgow game he came on and had a good bit of tempo.

"There's no doubt he's got talent and its been really good that he's played well in an Ulster jersey.

With Doak only in his first year of the Ulster academy, and not turning 20 until December, his run of games early this season is possibly coming a bit earlier than had been anticipated.

But with the versatile half-back standing above 6ft tall, he looks physically capable of holding his own in senior rugby.

Grant says at this stage of Doak's career, building game experiences are invaluable.

"This is my opinion on young guys, obviously the big thing is gaining experience and being consistent with your actions, which comes with experience so you will just get batter at it.

"With these young guys you just want them to be as consistent as they can be.

"Is it earlier? If John doesn't play someone else does, that's what you want in a squad, that when John Cooney (below) isn't playing there are other guys that can step up and do a good job," he added.

Ulster are likely to field a similar team for this Friday's meeting with Benetton in Belfast, with no new injuries arising from their win in Parma.

However, head coach Dan McFarland is dealing with an extensive early-season injury list with Cooney (hamstring) joining Stuart McCloskey (hamstring), Jacob Stockdale (ankle), Robert Baloucone (groin) and Rob Lyttle (back) on the injury list.

They host a Benetton side who have made a flying start to the season, following their Rainbow Cup success with URC wins against Edinburgh and the Stormers.

Grant says Ulster will have to improve from their performance against Zebre, where they looked sluggish at times in the opening half.

"We put a few things to right against Zebre, and there were some positive areas but honestly the biggest thing that came out was things to work on and we want to take a big step forward this weekend.

"They'll be a tough challenge, they're on a hell of a win streak. They've won silverware, so we're expecting a really tough game."