Trimble's injury is a real blow but he'll hit back: Les Kiss
Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has admitted it is a significant blow to see his co-captain Andrew Trimble once again go under the knife.
The wing had surgery on his hand on Monday after sustaining an injury in the win over Treviso last weekend and, even though he will be straight back to running today, is expected to be out of the game for at least a month.
It means he will miss both of Ireland's remaining Six Nations games, with Ulster hopeful he will return by early April and still make a contribution to the province's PRO12 run-in.
"The day after the game, it swelled up further and further," said Kiss.
"It just needed a bit of surgery in the end.
"It was a simple procedure, we are hoping four weeks. He will be able to run (today) and it is just really a matter of keeping the wound dry.
"It is a blow not just for us but for Ireland."
The game against Treviso was Trimble's first start since January thanks to a groin complaint, with the intention that he would get some game time under his belt before the concluding rounds of the Six Nations, and Monday's procedure is just the latest set-back in a frustrating year.
Having only made his first outing of the season in October due to a foot injury, he was out for another month with ankle damage sustained in the Autumn Internationals and is now set for another spell on the sidelines.
"I feel for Trimby because he has had a few little setbacks," added Kiss.
"He got some game time and started to look good, started to get his rhythm at the weekend.
"It is a blow for him without a doubt but he has come back before and will do again. He'll be alright."
Ulster will also be without Darren Cave, Louis Ludik and Stuart McCloskey when they take on Zebre at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday (6.05pm kick-off), although all three should be back next time out against Dragons.
For the rescheduled game - the original was postponed back in November thanks to a frozen pitch - the province will, however, be boosted by the return to fitness of lock Alan O'Connor and Rodney Ah You, the latter likely coming off the bench having been out since the New Year's Eve defeat to Leinster.
With the Ireland squad that will take on Wales on Friday night to be named this afternoon, Kiss can also expect to have a number of returnees from Carton House.
Seven players from Kingspan have been preparing for the crucial Six Nations encounter, but it appears likely that a maximum of four will make the trip.
Captain Rory Best will lead the side out, with Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson on the bench.
Craig Gilroy, already with a Championship hat-trick under his belt, is vying with Munster's Andrew Conway for the No.23 jersey vacated by Trimble, with Jared Payne seemingly set to have to wait for an international recall.
The naturalised Kiwi has had two games for Ulster since returning from three months out with a kidney problem but bruised his ankle on Friday.
He will train with Ireland today and if, as seems probable, he doesn't force his way into national boss Joe Schmidt's plans, could still feature again for Ulster.
"We're not sure who we are going to have back from Ireland yet," added Kiss yesterday.
"We also have a couple of players away at the Sevens in Spain and we do have to serve the 'A' team in the B&I Cup with their quarter-final against Munster on Sunday as well.
"The timing is different with Ireland playing on Friday because they did their big day Monday and Tuesday is their day off.
"I guess from Joe's perspective he is working out what he has got to do. We have chatted twice in the last day and we will probably get clarity (Wednesday) and maybe get one (more) back.
"Jared's ankle is clear of any major structural issue. It's is just swollen and sore. He just jarred the joint and we will see how he goes in training and we will get clarity then.
"It was during the game on Friday night. It worsened as the weekend went on but it is really accelerating in its improvement now.,
"It's a possibility for sure (that he plays against Zebre) but if he can run well there may be a chance for him in the green top as well."