Johann Muller back to bolster Ulster hopes
Captain Johann Muller and Darren Cave are included in Ulster’s 32-man provisional squad for Saturday afternoon’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Benetton Treviso at Stadio Monigo (3.15pm GMT).
Second row giant Muller last played on January 21 when Ulster lost to Clermont Auvergne, after which he suffered a calf injury in training.
Cave’s absence dates back to a week before that 19-15 defeat in France; he sprained a foot 55 minutes into Ulster’s 41-7 annihilation of Leicester Tigers on January 13.
Irish internationals Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble are not available for this weekend’s trip to north Italy.
They are due back to Newforge on Monday and are expected to feature in the March 30 PRO12 clash with Aironi at Ravenhill, the last outing before the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Munster on Easter Sunday at Thomond Park.
Although Best, Ferris and Trimble are absentees, Ireland prop Tom Court is included in the 32, despite having done a gruelling 45-minute shift — on the wrong side of the front row — when tight-head Mike Ross bowed out against England in Saturday evening’s mauling at Twickenham.
Court’s fellow-Irish internationals Dan Tuohy, Chris Henry, Paddy Wallace and Ian Whitten also are included in the extended squad.
Another to have made the 32 – to be trimmed to 15 starters and eight replacements on Friday – is Iain Henderson. The Phoenix Academy lock played a huge part in the Ireland under-20s’ Six Nations campaign, which saw them win four of their five matches.
Explaining Henderson’s inclusion coach Brian McLaughlin referred to “the situation with Johann coming back in from injury”.