Trimble woe opens Irish door for Bowe
Ulster co-captain's Six Nations is ended after latest injury but team-mate Tommy given a golden chance
What was ultimately meant to be a much-needed run-out prior to facing Wales on Friday night in the end saw Andrew Trimble's Six Nations come to a premature conclusion.
The Ulster co-captain made his first appearance since January off Ireland's bench in the last round two weekends ago and was subsequently returned to his province for their 19-7 victory over Treviso on Friday with the instruction to get some much-needed minutes under his belt.
Despite having addressed the media as normal after that Ulster triumph in no sign of distress whatsoever, it emerged yesterday that the game saw the 32-year-old break a bone in his hand.
While the winger still believes he can make a return for Les Kiss' side during their crucial PRO12 run-in, it means another frustrating spring in green.
Having starred in Joe Schmidt's first Six Nations at the helm in 2014, a foot injury saw him miss the 2015 Championship in its entirety, as well as greatly damaging his chances of making the plane for that year's World Cup.
A late cut for that tournament, he was back in situ last season but this latest setback means that he is guaranteed to end this Six Nations campaign with under half an hour of action to his name.
More misfortune for the Coleraine man has, however, meant a reprieve for his long-term Ulster and Ireland team-mate Tommy Bowe.
The two-time Lion made his first Test appearance since 2015 in the opening-round loss to Scotland but was not in the matchday panel to face Italy or France, nor indeed in the extended squad initially announced on Friday for the final two games to come against Wales and England.
The Monaghan man was rested for the Treviso game, but will now hope to press for national inclusion in Wales on Friday night, a country he knows very well after a stint playing for the Ospreys.
Jared Payne is another who will be hoping to catch Schmidt's eye with his provincial boss believing he is ready for an international recall.
The naturalised Kiwi missed three months with a kidney problem but returned for Ulster off the bench two weeks ago and got through a full 80 minutes on Friday.
After the victory over Treviso, and before finding out his Six Nations was over, Trimble said: "It was miserable out there.
"We have been here on nights like this before, you just need to dig in and get the job done.
"There are a lot of sides at home that might not dig in or do as good a job out there as we did.
"It was really tough to play any kind of rugby really.
"It was tough to catch the ball, it was covered in sand and grit and wet.
"It was just a tough night to play rugby and I think we did well for long periods.
"It was just about getting the job done and keeping the momentum going for Ulster. I have not played that much rugby in the last six weeks so I was delighted to get back on the pitch."
Trimble's team-mate Payne did, however, get through the 80 minutes against Treviso unscathed and has given Ireland boss Schmidt something to think about.
The back has missed the first trio of games in the Championship but will now give Schmidt an option at either full-back or outside centre.
Provincial boss Kiss said: "For Jared, the only thing I can say is that the run-out will do him good.
"At 13 as well, to feel the front line of his play, rather than 15 where he came on last week and showed his class, you can see that he's in a good place.
"He negotiates his way around the pitch exceptionally well.
"It is very obvious that he organises through voice and action where other people organise through actions only.
"JP has a real uncanny ability to see things early so he is preparing what you need half a play early. The run-out will stand to him."