Ulster are hoping that international scrum half Isaac Boss is fit to start Saturday’s Magners League return against Cardiff at Ravenhill.
It’s a must-win game for Ulster as they look to finish the season in style and try to push for a top four finish in the Magners League.
Those hopes were severely damaged in the first meeting with Dai Young’s side at the Cardiff City Stadium last weekend when an indisciplined Ulster were made to pay the penalty as the Welsh side fed off their mistakes.
Boss, capped 12 times by Ireland, missed the trip to Cardiff with a tweaked hamstring but after plenty of rest is expected to return at Ravenhill.
Before last weekend, Boss had featured in all 18 of this season’s games and has won over 100 caps for the province.
Paul Marshall did well behind a beaten pack in Cardiff but at the business end of the season, if Boss recovers, coach Brian McLaughlin is likely to go with his experience.
With Cillian Willis and Ian Porter injured, Ulster were forced to bench Ireland’s U20 Six Nations winning scrum half Michael Heaney last Friday — although he wasn’t given a debut as Marshall stayed on for the duration of the game.
The news isn’t as good for flanker Willie Faloon as he is still struggling with a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing last weekend. McLaughlin also has to decide if he should change his pack for the game after last week’s display when the Ulster set piece was put under pressure.
The Ulster scrum was creaking as South African prop BJ Botha had his hands full with British and Irish Lion Gethin Jenkins.
The Blues had also done their homework on the Ulster lineout and McLaughlin must decide whether to stick with Ryan Caldwell, who has been sin-binned in the last two games, or promote Ed O’Donoghue from the bench.
Meanwhile, Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery has returned to the Munster squad for the crucial Good Friday clash with Leinster.
Flannery’s six week ban for his moment of madness when he kicked French winger Alexis Palisson ended on Monday.
Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll is ruled out of the Leinster team for the top two clash at Thomond Park with the medial ligament damage he suffered in his right knee against Scotland.
O'Driscoll must now be rated a major doubt for his side's Heineken Cup quarter-final with Clermont next week although injured duo Gordon D'Arcy and Nathan Hines were included in the extended Leinster squad released yesterday which also includes returning Irish duo Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip.
All of Munster's front-line Irish internationals rested for last Friday's win against Glasgow will return, along with previously suspended hooker Jerry Flannery.
“We had a bit of a stomach bug in the camp last night and sent three players out of the camp straight away,” revealed Munster coach Tony McGahan from the team's Tipperary base at the Ballykisteen Hotel.
“Deccy Cusack and Barry Murphy also had the bug so we'll just wait and see how it transpires.
“We usually give 24 or 48 hours for these things so we'll get a clearer picture once it dies down a bit, and then we will see how it works out.”