Ulster skipper Johann Muller will be back in harness for Saturday’s Heineken Cup clash with Treviso at Ravenhill.
It is also expected that hooker Rob Herring, who is first-choice in Rory Best’s absence, will be available after sustaining a stinger against Zebre last week.
Muller, who has recovered from a calf injury sustained four weeks ago, will help alleviate Ulster’s forward injury woes ahead of their European back-to-back date with the dangerous Italian franchise. With locks Iain Henderson and Lewis Stevenson out of action until the new year, Muller’s return is most opportune. Nick Williams is still missing from the back-row, but Ireland’s Chris Henry is almost back to fitness, but is unlikely to be risked.
Flanker Michael McComish was another in the wars last weekend and Dungannon openside Sean Doyle is standing by to wear the number 7.
Utility back Jared Payne has also recovered following a groin injury. He was not risked last week, but no decision has been made as to where he will play. He could step in as Luke Marshall’s midfield partner which would be cruel on Darren Cave who has been playing so well of late. Head coach Mark Anscombe may play Payne at full-back allowing the electric Craig Gilroy to play on the wing with either Tommy Bowe or Andrew Trimble rested.
Former Ireland centre Paddy Wallace is also back in contention to play following surgery during the summer to mend a ruptured ACL to his right knee.
Anscombe, meanwhile, says that Ulster will need to step up a gear following a turgid performance in Italy last week.
“We cannot afford to do what we did against Zebre and expect to defeat Treviso. We had a poor start to the game and did not have any ball for the first 20 minutes,” said Anscombe.
“Then we started playing reasonable rugby. We put pressure on them, but we just did not look after the ball enough. We also won turnover ball in the second half, but we simply ended up giving it straight back to them. We have got to look at ourselves first and foremost because that was just not good enough.”
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