Ireland’s Rory Best has been confirmed as the biggest casualty of Sunday’s defeat to New Zealand after being ruled out by Ulster for at least six weeks.
Best, who scored the second of three first-half tries as Ireland took a 19-0 lead over the world champions, only lasted 15 minutes before suffering a broken radius in his right forearm. He saw a specialist in Belfast yesterday, who confirmed the hooker would be sidelined until the new year at the earliest, definitely ruling the 31-year-old out of Ulster’s Heineken Cup home and away ties with Benetton Treviso next month and putting him in doubt for the round five pool game at home to Montpellier.
Best will not be the only absentee from the Treviso double-header, with fellow forwards Nick Williams (calf) and Lewis Stevenson (knee) also ruled out while Iain Henderson’s participation is also in doubt after a hamstring injury suffered against Edinburgh in Ulster’s league win at Ravenhill last Friday. The Ireland lock/back-row, who missed the autumn internationals with a toe injury and was making his comeback from that at the weekend, was due to have an MRI scan yesterday to determine the extent of the injury.
Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe’s gloom will have been lifted by the medics regarding skipper Johann Muller (calf) and Jared Payne (groin), both of whom have been progressing well through their rehabilitation, with a decision on their involvement for this week’s league clash at Zebre to be taken later in the week.
There was also good news for Munster yesterday as the RaboDirect Pro12 leaders announced that Keith Earls (knee), Ian Keatley (hip/groin) and Luke O’Dea (hamstring) will all return to full training this week.
Earls was another to miss Ireland’s three Tests having suffered tendonitis in his knee before Munster’s league trip to Glasgow at the end of October. Fly-half Keatley was forced to sit out Saturday’s trip to Cardiff Blues while wing O’Dea has not played for more than 11 months.
Even further along the road to a return are Ian Nagle (foot) and Gerry Hurley (dislocated finger), who both played 80 minutes for Cork Constitution in their AIL League home defeat to Clontarf on Saturday.
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