Two of the heroes of Thomond Park, Paddy Wallace and Pedrie Wannenburg, should be fit to face Edinburgh in Saturday’s Heineken Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium (5.45).
But a third of those who shone in the quarter-final victory over Munster, Chris Henry, must now win a race against the clock if he is to be ready for what would be the biggest game of his career to date in an Ulster jersey.
The wording of an Ulster statement issued last night following medical assessment of all three was significant.
Whereas in the case of Wallace and Wannenburg it said they “are expected to be available for selection”, the language in Henry’s case was very different.
“Chris Henry sustained an ankle sprain which is subject to ongoing treatment and re-assessment, but at this stage he is not ruled out of contention,” it read.
All three sustained their injuries in Friday night’s 16-8 Ravenhill defeat by Leinster, a result which effectively ended Ulster’s hopes of a place in the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs.
That, however, is of far less concern to them than the possible loss of a key member of their back row.
Wallace felt unwell following a heavy tackle and and left the field with blurred vision “due to migraine” as per Ulster’s update last night.
They added that Wallace’s difficulty was “resolved within an hour of on-set”.
Wannenburg’s problem — a groin injury which saw him withdrawn in the third quarter — was said to be “responding well to treatment”.
But while the prognosis on that pair was upbeat, the news on Henry was less reassuring. “Not ruled out of contention” is very different to “resolved within an hour” and “responding well to treatment”.
Were Henry not to make it, his omission would be a huge blow. Stephen Ferris at blindside, Henry on the open flank and Wannenburg at No 8 have been their first-choice loose forwards trio throughout the Heineken Cup and any disruption for the biggest match thus far would be a setback.
Tellingly, when speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin said Henry had been the team’s most consistent performer of his three-year reign. And highlighting Edinburgh’s strengths, McLaughlin singled out the Scots’ breakaway threesome.
“Ross Rennie, David Denton and Netani Talei are a superb back row,” he warned.
A fourth Ulster player — scrum-half Paul Marshall — is continuing to receive treatment for the elbow injury he suffered in the match against Connacht in Galway the previous weekend.
His omission against Leinster on Friday night was the first time since March 5, 2010 — a run of 64 games — that he failed to make a match-day 23. In his case re-assessment is ongoing.