Bear joker Andrew Trimble gets serious after Tommy Bowe is ruled out
A week ago Ulster's Andrew Trimble was larking about on the Ravenhill touchline watching his team-mates run in five tries against Benetton Treviso.
Sidelined by a finger injury and bored as a result, the 50 times-capped Irish international wing became 'Sparky', the Ulster mascot bear, for the night.
But there will be no clowning around tonight in Swansea, where last week's play-bear takes over from a wounded Lion with Ulster on the prowl for RaboDirect PRO12 points. The big mittens are off, the perfectly-fitting boots are on.
Tommy Bowe, Ulster's 2009 and 2013 British and Irish Lions Test winger, is out of the game against his former club – unbeaten, second-placed Ospreys – at Liberty Stadium. Contrary to expectations he has not recovered from the dead leg he suffered during that Treviso game in which he scored the third of his side's five tries.
It is in the absence of his Ulster and Ireland team-mate that Trimble found himself being rushed back ahead of schedule.
Exactly three weeks ago he underwent surgery to a thumb injury and at the time the prognosis was that he would be out for a minimum of four weeks. The envisaged comeback date was next Friday, October 11, when Ulster host current English champions, Leicester Tigers, in the first match of this season's Heineken Cup.
Now, by a twist of fate, it is Trimble who is up and running, and Bowe (pictured) who is wondering if he will be ready for that Ravenhill sell-out.
His presence at Tuesday's media day at Newforge provided proof of Ulster's expectation that Bowe would play tonight. But things did not go as planned, resulting in his withdrawal and Trimble's early recall.