Ulster will vigorously defend Jared Payne when the full-back appears before an ERC disciplinary panel today to discuss the red card he received after just five minutes of last Saturday’s Heineken Cup defeat to Saracens at Ravenhill.
Payne was sent off by French referee Jerome Garces for an alleged dangerous charge on Saracens full-back Alex Goode, to the consternation of the vast majority of supporters and neutrals alike.
The alleged offence was in contravention of Law 10.4 (g), 'dangerous charging or knocking down an opponent with the ball' and Law 10.4(i), 'tackling, tapping, pushing or pulling an opponent jumping for the ball in open play.'
Payne could receive suspensions of anything from two weeks to a maximum of a year, but he and his Ulster representatives will vigorously attest that the decision to award a red card was wrong in the first instance.
It is widely expected that the appeals panel will dismiss the original decision.
A judgment is expected this afternoon, with Welshman Simon Thomas appointed as the independent judicial officer.
Meanwhile in the wake of their bruising, heartbreaking Heineken Cup exit against Saracens, it will be a patched-up Ulster side which faces Connacht at Ravenhill on Friday night (7.05pm).
Half a dozen players are ruled out by injury, with Rory Best, John Afoa, Dan Tuohy and Roger Wilson missing from the pack, while the absence of Ruan Pienaar and Andrew Trimble has robbed the back line of two more internationals.
The gap created by hooker Best's omission, owing to a severe ankle sprain which is expected to keep him out for at least six weeks, will be filled by Rob Herring.
With fellow-front rower Afoa ruled out by a disc-related back injury Ricky Lutton is favourite to start at tight-head.
Tuohy's problem is a hand fracture which means he is unlikely to be available until mid-May at the earliest. But lock is a position where Ulster have like-for-like cover in the form of Irish international, Iain Henderson.
That, however, would take him out of the equation as a back row option, which is not ideal given that Wilson — equally effective at six or eight — is ruled out after fracturing a thumb against Saracens.
Robbie Diack will undoubtedly be promoted to the starting 15 and Ulster need have no concern there. He has been in excellent form this season, earning himself a call-up from Joe Schmidt for Ireland's pre-Six Nations camp.
Sean Doyle obviously comes into the reckoning as well and then there is the Stephen Ferris factor. Named as a replacement on Saturday night, Ulster must now do a balancing act with regard to what they can ask him to do at this stage.
To date a half-shift is the most they have dared to ask of the powerful blind-side, who is still finding his way back gingerly following 16 months on the sidelines with a career-threatening ankle injury.
Pienaar's position immediately behind the scrum is expected to go to Paul Marshall, although in the previous two matches against Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues it was Michael Heaney who got the number nine jersey.