Dan Tuohy and Jared Payne have been included in Ulster’s preliminary 27-strong squad for Friday night’s must-win Heineken Cup Pool 4 clash against Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill (8pm).
But centre Luke Marshall and full-back Adam D’Arcy are out.
Marshall, who broke a finger in Friday night’s 47-17 rout of Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 is to undergo surgery and is expected to be sidelined probably for four weeks, but possibly six if things do not go as smoothly as is hoped.
D’Arcy, too, has a fracture — in his case, of his ankle — and until such times as he has seen a specialist later in the week, Ulster cannot confirm an approximate time-frame for his return.
Ricky Andrew (shoulder) has not made it, either, leaving Ulster sweating on Payne’s availability at 15.
Like Tuohy, he will continue to be monitored, with Ulster not required to make decisions on their availability until noon tomorrow.
Against Scarlets, Tuohy suffered a recurrence of the calf injury sustained in last month’s Ravenhill battle with Northampton and the fact that Ulster have included him in their 27 confirms their belief that he has a genuine chance, even though coach Mark Anscombe was decidedly pessimistic about the Irish international lock’s prospects in the aftermath of Friday night’s bonus-point triumph.
Payne was ruled out of last weekend’s game by a groin strain, but as per Ulster’s team announcement “could play some part on Friday”.
Neither Tuohy nor Payne was able to train yesterday, however, and that is worrying.
“They’re close,” Anscombe said. “Are they going to be close enough? The next day or two will clarify that. One of them is closer than the other, let’s put it that way.”
Those words, in tandem with Ulster’s suggestion that Payne may “play some part”, imply that the full-back is the more likely of the pair to come through.
“It’s going to be touch and go, but we know who’s going to be playing if they don’t play and we’re comfortable with where we’re at with that, so that’s all good,” was Anscombe’s summary.
Although he insisted that Ulster’s preparation for a Heineken Cup match is no more intense than for a PRO12 clash with Leinster or Munster, the Kiwi admitted that European fixtures are a little bit special.
“I think the profile of the Heineken Cup — the media attention it creates and the support it draws — make it a more intense competition,” he said.
“You’re on a bigger stage and all good players — like any other sort of performers — want to perform on the top stage.
“The fact is that when you play good teams in a good competition the fear factor comes into it, too. Your fear of letting yourself down, letting the team down and not getting the right result all add to the intensity of these matches.
“Yes, there’s pressure but you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t enjoy it. Me? I love it.”
With Ulster in control of their own destiny going into the penultimate pool-stage match of the 2012-13 Heineken Cup, Anscombe added: “That’s the way you want it. We aren’t relying on anybody else; we know what we need to do so now it’s up to us.”