Ulster captain Johann Muller was close to being available for Saturday’s date with Castres.
The giant South African suffered an undisplaced fracture of his radius in Ulster’s outstanding 25-6 Franklin’s Gardens win against Northampton Saints on December 7 and at the time the prognosis was that he would be out for eight weeks.
That has proved to have been a very accurate forecast with his comeback set for February 8 — two months to the day after Muller’s arm-break.
The lock forward has a history of healing quickly and that almost happened again, a fact he revealed during Monday night’s Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards gala at which he collected the Team of the Year accolade on behalf of the Ulster side, last season’s beaten Heineken Cup finalists.
But although he pushed himself in a typically brave effort to be ready for this weekend’s Castres challenge, the fact that it comes only six weeks after that injury proved just too tight a deadline.
Instead he will return to lead Ulster next month when they host Ospreys, the defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions at Ravenhill.