Belfast Telegraph

Heineken Cup: Wilson in demand... with Ulster expected to be among the suitors

By Michael Sadlier

Ulster are believed to be interested in bringing Northampton’s Roger Wilson back to Ravenhill.

Belfast man Wilson, who was capped by Ireland against Japan in 2005, spent five years with Ulster before joining Saints.

And, with the IRFU's new Player Succession policy favouring experienced Irish-qualified players, the 30-year-old No 8 would certainly be an attractive acquisition for his old province and could then neatly fit into the squad should it turn out that Pedrie Wannenburg’s contract is not be extended beyond this season.

Wilson is also said to have been contacted by Top 14 club Castres who are keen to bring him to France when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Humphreys and Wannenburg are Ulster’s only frontline injury concerns ahead of Friday night’s crunch Heineken Cup clash with Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill (kick-off 8.00).

Both players have been undergoing treatment after departing early during Ulster’s impressive 42-20 PRO12 League win over Edinburgh last Friday night.

Humphreys has undergone an ultrasound and MRI scan over a tweaked hamstring while Wannenburg has also been receiving treatment for an injured foot.

Though Humphreys’ scans showed up no abnormalities or problems, it was still unclear if he, or indeed Wannenburg, would be fit for the Tigers clash though both are said to be responding well to treatment and could yet be included in the match squad.

Should either break down later in the week, then Ulster have plenty of options with Ruan Pienaar showing against Edinburgh that he is again more than capable of slotting in at out half — a position Paddy Wallace could also play — while Chris Henry could easily reprise his Murrayfield shift at number eight.

Though Rory Best and Stephen Ferris were also withdrawn at Edinburgh — both were brought off at around the 70th minute mark — they bowed out of the game for precautionary reasons.

Both Best and Ferris were able to train yesterday and their presence will be pivotal as Ulster not only seek to stay top of Pool Four but also bid to end the Tigers’ interest in the competition by denying them a losing bonus point.

Ferris’ clash with fellow Lion Tom Croft looks like being a seismic encounter and the Ulsterman

again showed his enormous value to coach Brian McLaughlin last Friday night when a wonderfully skillful back-flip bass put Dan Tuohy in for his try.

Elsewhere, Wallace made a successful return to action — following his thumb surgery — against the Scots and completed the final 20 minutes without any issues.

Wallace, the only survivor from Ulster’s epic 33-0 thumping of the Tigers back in January 2004, seems likely to be selected at inside centre with the strong-running Darren Cave outside him.

Elsewhere, McLaughlin faces selection issues at full back with Stefan Terblanche or Adam D’Arcy both pushing hard for a starting place while Paul Marshall’s tremendous form at scrum half — he helped create two of Ulster’s tries at Edinburgh — offers the possibility of starting Pienaar at 10 from where the South African kicked 16 points at Murrayfield.

Elsewhere, on the injury front, Nevin Spence, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall — who were all out with ankle injuries — have each been passed fit and are available for selection this week.

However, prop Declan Fitzpatrick will be out for another four to six weeks with a neck problem while Paddy McCallister is also not likely to feature this week.

“It’s good that we’re finding a little bit of form again,” Ulster skipper Johann Muller said in the aftermath of the Edinburgh win.

“There’s a special buzz in this team now, but we’ve not got some huge games ahead of us.”

Belfast Telegraph


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