Tommy Bowe must sit out game against former Ospreys team-mates for third time
The loss of British and Irish Lions star Tommy Bowe has been eased by Ulster being able to recall fit-again Ireland international wing Andrew Trimble for tonight's date with Opspreys in Swansea (7.05pm).
Bowe was in line to face his former club for the first time since re-joining Ulster in the summer of 2012, but once again the hand of fate has intervened.
He has not recovered from the dead leg he suffered in last weekend's five-try romp against Benetton Treviso, his first outing of 2013-14 and a match in which he scored.
Lady Luck seems determined to ensure Bowe does not play against his former team-mates for this is the third time since his return that Ulster have faced Ospreys and yet again he misses out.
Last September, when Ulster won 16-13 at Liberty Stadium, Bowe was recovering from surgery to rectify a haematoma that had pushed into his left kidney.
And when Ospreys visited Ravenhill in February this year, he was sidelined, having over-extended his right knee – resulting in lateral ligament damage which also required surgery – in Ulster's pre-Christmas Heineken Cup defeat by Northampton Saints in Belfast.
His late withdrawal for tonight's match is a blow, not least because he wanted the sort of work-out his former colleagues will provide ahead of next Friday's Heineken Cup opener against Aviva Premiership champions Leicester Tigers, at Ravenhill.
However, the highly-polished silver lining to that particular cloud is that Ulster have a 50-times capped Irish international winger in the number 14 jersey.
Trimble had surgery on a finger as recently as September 13 and, at the time, the prognosis was he would be absent for 4-6 weeks.
Instead he returns after just three, with the quite remarkable –Bowesque even – speed of his recovery giving him much-needed game-time in readiness for the coming European challenges.
Trimble's inclusion is one of four changes made by coach Mark Anscombe to the side which beat Treviso 32-13 a week ago.
Big South African Johann Muller returns to lead the side and he packs down alongside Ireland's Dan Tuohy in the engine-room. Muller's restoration sees Irish international, Iain Henderson, drop down to the bench.
Another Ireland player, Declan Fitzpatrick, is named on the tight-head side of an all-international front row alongside loose-head Tom Court and hooker Rory Best.
Fitzpatrick missed out on the rout of Treviso after suffering a head injury in the first half of the previous week's victory over Connacht in Galway.
Ricky Lutton, who replaced him at the Sportsground and then was retained to face the Italians, is one of tonight's eight replacements.
In what is a straight swap, the other change sees Nick Williams start at No 8, with Roger Wilson on the bench on this occasion. Not a bad week for Williams, having just signed a two-year Ulster contract extension.
Also on a quality Ulster bench are two more Irish internationals, Darren Cave and Stuart Olding, still just 20 but has not played this season after making his Ireland debut against the United States in Houston on June 8.
But tonight's opponents aren't short of quality, either; the Ospreys' star-studded pack includes five of the 2013 Lions.
Asked if he could offer any insight as to what Ospreys are likely to offer tonight, one-time comrade-in-arms Bowe replied: "I suppose I can add little bits and pieces, but I can't provide too much information that can't already be seen from their past performances.
"There's obviously some different patterns now that they're playing a little bit more rugby. I'll add what I can if the team find it useful."