Ulster are refusing to rule Will Addison out of Saturday’s Champions Cup clash against Bath even though he left France on crutches last weekend.
Addison looked poised to finally cement his place in the Ireland team for the upcoming Six Nations campaign after some superb performances this season.
A hamstring injury and a four-week suspension limited his appearances but the 27-year-old was a certainty to be named today in new head coach Andy Farrell’s squad, before another injury setback.
The full-back limped out of Saturday’s loss away to Clermont Auvergne after 50 minutes with a calf injury — a similar injury to the one which cost him a place in the World Cup squad.
Like Addison, tighthead prop Marty Moore is also struggling for fitness after sustaining an ankle injury.
He had just forced his way back into national contention having attended a pre-Christmas get-together under Farrell at Abbotstown.
“We are not sure yet, the boys are just getting going at the start of another week and getting the bodies going,” said Ulster forwards coach Roddy Grant.
“No decisions have been made as yet. We will see tomorrow. A lot of times it (crutches) can be precautionary... crutches, space boots, and ankles.
“We will see how he turns around.”
Although disappointed they couldn’t beat Clermont to nail down that home quarter-final, Ulster can still secure a place in the last eight with a home win over Bath.
“It’s a hard one,” admitted Grant, “you bin it and try to move on because that is the nature of pro start.
“You can’t wallow in self-pity, we have to get back on the horse and go again.
“It makes things straightforward in that we have to play well to win. We’ll need to, against a good Bath team, and it’s in our hands.
Bath are out of contention so it remains to be seen whether they travel to Belfast fully loaded.
Regardless of whether they leave a few big names resting up at home or not, Grant is expecting a tough game given Ulster edged a tight one at The Rec 17-16 in November.
“It doesn’t take an expert to look at their squad and see that they’ve got X amount of World Cup final players and, eliminated or not, it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
“They will want to win and build continuity I’m sure, for a league game against Leicester the following week.”
This is the last fixture in a relentless programme of 13 games back to back.
After this, Ulster don’t play again until the middle of February, when PRO14 action resumes.
“We will still train but there will be a bit more time to rest,” said Grant. “It’s not a ‘go home at five o’clock and don’t think about it again’ type of job. You think about it coaching wise and players will watch footage in the evenings and think about moves you need to know for the next day.
“It’s a lifestyle, really.”