Unlucky Trimble straining to get back into the action
With better luck, Andrew Trimble would have been preparing for Ireland's weekend tussle with South Africa rather than getting used to a pair of crutches and the Ulster star has admitted that his injured toe has come at a hugely inopportune time. Having gone under the knife last Thursday, the winger will be on crutches for the next fortnight and will then spend four weeks wearing a protective boot.
On the ligament injury sustained last month, Trimble said: "The surgeon was very happy with how it went and it was all straightforward.
"We still don't have any timescale of getting back but I'm meeting with the surgeon next Thursday to get my cast off and I'll pick his brains then about how long it's going to be."
Having already missed Ulster's disastrous opening to the Champions Cup, the man who starred during last season's Six Nations will also be absent for Ireland's Tests against Georgia and Australia after the South Africa clash.
Fortunate with injuries throughout his career, Trimble has had to get used to the feeling of missing crucial fixtures.
"Sitting watching the Leicester game on TV, and then being at Ravenhill for the Toulon game, it was really disappointing thinking how much you would love to be out there," said the 30-year-old.
"This is the first time I can remember being out for a long period of time when there's important games on but it's just one of those things.
"I think my luck was always going to catch up with me at some point."
While no professional player is ever going to enjoy an extended spell on the sidelines, the time has allowed Trimble to get to grips with his new role as Ulster's representative on the Irish Rugby Union Players Association Executive Board.
Trimble, who succeeds Rory Best in the position, said: "Over the last few years I've obviously had a bit more experience and that inevitability leads to you taking on a bit more of a leadership role off the pitch as well.
"Being a representative for Ulster on the board means acting as a go-between with Pamela (Gilpin, an IRUPA Player Development Manager) and setting up courses and opportunities for the guys in terms of player development."
The ever-increasing focus in this area by the IRUPA is something that Trimble feels is hugely important.
"It's one of those things that when you're in your early twenties you think that this career is one for the foreseeable future.
"I turned 30 there a few weeks ago and then it really hits home just how short this career is going to be.
"Nobody wants someone who can just play rugby in their work force.
"We have a few afternoons free so it's important we do something with them."
Trimble is doing just that as - although he admits a mechanics course undertaken with Iain Henderson is more with a view to getting their old Mini Coopers back on the road than any career ambitions - along with Tommy Bowe and Connacht's TJ Anderson, he is working towards a post-graduate diploma in management from the University of London set up by the IRUPA.
"We've all got to think about getting a real job eventually and with IRUPA's help it's going to be a lot easier," said the 57-times capped international.
IRUPA CEO Omar Hassanein - himself a former player who was at the NSW Waratahs when Ulster's soon-to-be Director of Rugby Les Kiss was on the coaching staff - believes preparation for such eventualities has never been more important.
"Rugby is a very unique situation," said the Australian who has been in the role since 2011.
"Your employees are ones that you only have for a transient period of 10 to 12 years, sometimes even shorter, and that's something that needs to be managed.
"There is an obligation for player associations like IRUPA to run these programmes."
He added: "There are so many instances of players falling into depression post career and that's what we need to avoid."