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Ulster coach expects Nick Williams to make Montpellier trip

Ulster are hopeful that all their big guns will be firing for Saturday's first ever Heineken Cup meeting with in-form Montpellier at Stade Yves du Manoir.

Coach Mark Anscombe's main concern appears to be number eight Nick Williams who picked up a calf injury in last Friday night's 22-16 win over Leicester Tigers which opened Ulster's Pool Five campaign with an all-important home win.

"Nick got had a knock and we're just looking after him this week, but we're hopeful," Anscombe said yesterday.

Having Williams available to test his trademark ball-carrying up against what is a formidable Montpellier pack would be a key asset for Anscombe though should the Kiwi not make it he has a more than adequate replacement in Roger Wilson who has recently been in great form on the blindside flank.

Full-back Craig Gilroy – who is recovering from an ankle injury – seems less likely to be passed fit and though he is not thought to have been ruled out yet the presence of Jared Payne being again shifted back into the number 15 shirt and Darren Cave continuing at outside centre will hardly weaken Ulster's cause.

Elsewhere, there is better news with skipper Johann Muller looking ready to lead Ulster against a side who have not lost a home game in the Top 14 this season and currently lie second in the French domestic championship after some eye-catching thumpings of Toulouse and Clermont.

Ireland and Lions winger Tommy Bowe also seems likely to be able to take his place after shaking off a dead leg while All Black prop John Afoa could also be about to be involved for the first time this season.

Afoa picked up a bicep injury in last May's PRO12 final, which required surgery, and more recently has been struggling with a calf problem so should he get the nod then it will be a calculated gamble as he will be well-short of match fitness.

Having said that, the World Cup winning prop's presence in the match day squad – if involved he will undoubtedly be on the bench – could be pivotal if his experience can be brought to bear in what will surely be a battle royal at the set-pieces.

"We're hoping that from the work he's done he'll maybe in the 23 for us this weekend," Anscombe added.

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