Andrew Trimble can prove his worth with Ulster, says Doak
The PRO12 season kicks-off tomorrow with Andrew Trimble out to show he is ready and willing to answer Ireland's call if required.
The Ulster wing was left out of Joe Schmidt's World Cup squad this week but his provincial coach Neil Doak would not be surprised to see the 30-year-old, as well as the others left on stand-by, play some part in the tournament.
"Ultimately they're disappointed but they have to prove on Friday and over the next couple of weeks that if anything unfortunately happens to players in their position that they're ready if called upon," said Doak.
Trimble was considered especially unlucky to miss out on selection, a recurrence of his foot injury against Wales three weeks ago hampering efforts to prove his fitness after a long spell on the sidelines, and Doak was sympathetic towards his disappointed star.
"He's a true pro. From his point of view it was a disappointing and frustrating season last year," said Doak.
"He looked like he was coming on pretty well on the early part, after the first injury.
"I thought he did pretty well in those 34 minutes (against Wales), coming off a long lay-off into international rugby.
"That was a credit to him and a credit to the strength and conditioning staff and the physios that got him back on the paddock in good shape.
"I suppose 80 minutes last week (for Ulster in the pre-season defeat to Edinburgh, in which he scored a try) was pleasing on his part but maybe it was just a little lack of rugby that was the deciding factor.
"He has a couple of games to get time under his belt."
While Trimble was processing the news that he would not be travelling to the tournament, seven of his Ulster team-mates received confirmation of their places via email with Darren Cave the most eye-catching inclusion.
Doak is sure that the long-serving centre will take his chance on the big stage.
"It's great," he added. "He played a bit at 12 in that first warm-up game. He's been a regular at 13 here and done pretty well.
"Cavey will be champing at the bit to get some opportunities and, whether it's big or whether it's small, they'll want to be involved in a successful Ireland tournament.
"Hopefully that takes them to the back-end of the competition - semi-finals, with a little bit of luck maybe a final."
Such thoughts are now secondary for Doak as he focuses on a PRO12 campaign that begins tomorrow with a visit from Ospreys to the Kingspan Stadium.
Unfortunately for the former scrum-half, despite knowing which of his internationals will be available, selection issues elsewhere are far less clear.
Out-half Ian Humphreys is set to miss out with a hamstring strain and Sam Windsor is also carrying a knock, although he has trained this week and should start.
With Paddy Jackson on Ireland duty, and the presumptive next in line Stuart Olding out until January, it could all mean Luke Marshall being pressed into emergency service in the No 10 jersey.
The centre has limited experience in the position, the bulk of which came all the way back at Ballymena Academy, and will surely be hoping that Windsor can make it through the 80 minutes.
If not, such a scenario would also leave Ulster without a recognised goal-kicker, causing Doak to quip: "Dan Tuohy's been kicking pretty well."
On the potential out-half conundrum, he elaborated: "Humph pulled out of the game in the warm-up last week. We're looking to see whether he's going to be available but it's maybe a little bit early for him.
"It's probably unlikely that he'll feature.
"We've a few injuries at the moment; we'll have a final indication (today).
"Most of them took part in training bar Humph so we'll see how they react. We've a few variables at the moment that haven't been finalised as yet."
Callum Black will likely not feature this week or against Scarlets next Saturday, with Andy Warwick expected to start at loose-head, while Roger Wilson remains a doubt.
Nick Williams is, however, available after his lengthy suspension ended this week.
The No 8 was banned for the final five games of last season, as well as both August friendlies, but having not played since March, match sharpness will be of concern.
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Jonathan Bell yesterday reiterated the government's support to bring the 2023 World Cup to Ireland.
After a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, he said: "Both my department and I will do all we can to provide the necessary assistance in developing a winning bid.
"Our supporters consistently set records for attendance and I am confident working together we can stage a spectacular, world class sporting tournament."