Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best back for Ulster Rugby's Dublin crunch
Ulster ready to gamble on star duo for semi-final
Ulster are ready to take a risk on A-list pair Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best in Saturday night's RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final against Leinster at the RDS (7pm).
But Ricky Lutton is in a race against time, while John Afoa and Nick Williams are out having failed to recover from their injuries.
Neither South African scrum-half Pienaar (shoulder) nor Ireland hooker Best (ankle) have played since Ulster's Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Saracens on April 5.
At the time the prognoses were that Pienaar was likely to be out for six weeks while Best was expected to miss six-eight.
Saturday will be six weeks since that European exit, for which reason seldom-injured Pienaar and famously quick-to-heal Best will be risked.
Unlike that pair's case, there was no estimated time-out for former All Black and 2011 World Cup winner Afoa, who also has been sidelined since suffering a back injury against Saracens.
But as a tight-head prop whose primary raison d'être is to scrummage, a disc problem meant it was always highly unlikely that he would be involved this weekend.
And with both of those immediately below Afoa in the pecking order – Declan Fitzpatrick and Ricky Lutton – sidelined by heart palpitations and a toe injury respectively, the past two matches have seen fledgling Andrew Warwick switch from the loose to tight-head side of Ulster's front row, where he has excelled.