Prop Wiehahn Herbst could be set for a recall when Ulster face Wasps in Sunday’s decisive Champions Cup Pool One game in Coventry.
“He’s trained this week, with no immediate reaction, so we’re monitoring him closely,” said assistant coach Dwayne Peel.
Craig Gilroy, who had surgery on the fractured cheek suffered in the win over La Rochelle last weekend, will miss out although flanker Chris Henry, impressive as a replacement in that victory, may force his way back into the team.
Certain to play is winger Jacob Stockdale, one of just four Ulstermen named in Ireland’s 36-man Six Nations squad.
The imposing 21-year-old is hoping he will make his Championship debut in Paris, but realises that a frail defensive display against Leinster two weeks ago wouldn’t have impressed Joe Schmidt.
“I was really disappointed I didn’t do better when Fergus McFadden went past me, and for the try when Andrew Porter steamrolled me as well,” admitted Stockdale.
“It made me realise I am definitely not the finished product, I’ve got a lot of work to do. It brought my feet back on the ground and I know I need to work hard over the next few weeks.”
Ulster heads the group but need a win to qualify for the quarter-finals in April.
“Going into every game you feel a lot of pressure, but this game more than most as it’s essentially a Cup final,” said Stockdale. If we don’t win it could make the season a lot tougher for us. Wasps’ hopes of qualifying are pretty slim, and that makes them all the more dangerous as they’re going to play, and throw the ball about. We always look to score tries, but our big focus will be on our defence and not letting them score.
“As for my own form it’s been about getting into positions, that’s been key,” said Stockdale, who has scored 11 tries for his club this season.
Laughing off any suggestion his own excellent form might have contributed to Tommy Bowe’s retirement announcement this week Stockdale was quick to salute his team-mate’s achievements and contribution to his own development.
“Tommy’s been superb to me, always there with a ‘tip’ or giving a helpful word, he’s been really brilliant. Every young lad in Ulster wants to be Tommy Bowe or Andrew Trimble, those guys have been big role models for me growing up.”
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