From a fortnight full of optimism, things do not take long to turn in professional rugby.
At the weekly media briefing in Kingspan Stadium, the giddiness the week before of Leinster coming to town off the back of two attractive wins has given way to something a bit gloomier. One week ago, Jacob Stockdale lit up the room with his joy at playing rugby again.
Now, uncertainty reigns. Out of the November international reckoning for Andy Farrell’s side? Perhaps. The silver lining is that while he was sent for an MRI on Monday, the current injury is unrelated to the left ankle injury that kept him out for such a long spell of last year.
“He was pretty gutted post-match,” admitted assistant coach Dan Soper.
“Immediately after the match you are always thinking the worst and it’s been as fresh for him of going through that whole process of rehabbing and all that, you tend to think the worst.
“He’s pretty upbeat today, albeit we haven’t got the scan result back yet. It’s a shame because he got back to some pretty good form pretty quickly. Hopefully it is not too bad.”
He added, “Jacob is pretty resilient. We will see what the scan tells us and we can work to a timeline. But he has the work he has done over the past couple of years to get himself in the shape he is in, so we will see that again, pretty quickly.”
With the Emerging Ireland Tour getting underway in south Africa shortly, and Robert Baloucoune off on the plane, all of a sudden the cover looks a bit scarce in the Ulster playing roster.
“It’s a great opportunity for the next guys, isn’t it? That’s always the case,” Soper glass half-fulled.
“Of course you don’t like to see guys getting injured and you want players available but it is the nature of the beast and it is a good opportunity for the next guy, like John Andrew who did really well in the 50-60 minutes he got in.
“That’s what you want. You want when guys get that opportunity, you want them to take it. It’s the same on the wing, that if Jacob’s ankle is not going to be good enough, then that’s the nature of the beast.”
Another of the walking wounded who left the pitch last Friday night was Rob Herring, following a head injury assessment.
Soper praises the work that is being done in this field by the medics at Ulster.
“I suppose all I can speak for is the environment I am in. I see the work that medics do around recognising it, getting the guys removed and the very thorough process that goes with it and I guess I was part of that,” he says.
“My former role was skills and that was a big part of it, to make sure those guys gradually returned and they were in the best place possible to avoid those things where possible.
“I think in our environment we do as best we can. I can’t speak for other clubs.”