Ulster coach Neil Doak waiting for news over squad injuries
Ulster head coach Neil Doak is still waiting to find out the severity of an injury suffered by Tommy Bowe on Ireland duty last weekend but hopes to have his other international stars back sooner rather than later.
Bowe had his knee scanned on Monday and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines while Jared Payne's broken foot required surgery that could keep him out for two months.
As Ulster prepare to face Cardiff Blues at Kingspan Stadium on Friday, Doak hopes that the likes of Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Darren Cave and Paddy Jackson are made available shortly, some in time to face Munster next weekend.
"I hope it's not as long as three weeks," he said yesterday.
"I know it's a long time they've been away from us and, like us all, they'll be disappointed with the way things finished but we've got games to win and we need to integrate our players as quickly as possible.
"These games are going to be coming thick and fast. With the injury profile, we've played (just) four games.
"When we get into a run of 10 or 12 weeks, who knows what the profile could be at that stage. We don't want to leave it too late because we obviously need to know what's coming back and when they're going to come back."
On the wait for news of the injury sustained by Bowe, he said: "I was hoping to get something just before today but nothing has come back yet.
"Obviously on the day it didn't look particularly good. Unfortunately the Ulster boys don't do anything by half - injury-wise they always seem to be long-term.
"(Jared) had an operation but there's no definitive return point at this stage. Like most things with bones, maybe structural damage done there, who knows? It could be eight weeks.
"He's obviously had his surgery and is on the road to recovery."
Luke Marshall's injured thumb will keep him out for six weeks, while Robbie Diack and Dan Tuohy are also set to miss out against Cardiff with a thigh injury and concussion respectively.
Ulster will be relieved to be back at Kingspan this week, where a 14th straight game unbeaten would equal their record run in the Pro12.
They have collected ten points at home already this season with both their losses having occurred on the road.
The latest away-day setback, a 16-10 reverse to Edinburgh last Friday, saw Ulster display a wastefulness that frustrated their coach.
"I want to win every game," he said.
"We had opportunities against both Edinburgh and Scarlets to get that away win and that's what builds momentum. You have your home form but you have to pick up away wins and be consistent.
"You don't have to be unbelievably perfect, you just have to take some opportunities and negate what the opposition throw at you."
Pro12 League: Kingspan Stadium, Friday 7.35pm Ulster v Cardiff.