Belfast Telegraph

RaboDirect Pro12: Crocked Cave out of Ulsters Ospreys clash

By Niall Crozier

Ulster centre Darren Cave has been omitted from the 29-man preliminary squad for Sunday afternoon’s RaboDirect Pro12 clash with Ospreys at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium (4.30pm).

Cave, who scored both of Ulster’s first-half tries in Friday night’s 20-3 home win over Cardiff Blues, has been left out as a precaution after aggravating a hamstring injury in that match.

With the currently red-hot midfielder having missed so much of last season with a hamstring problem, Ulster withdrew him at the interval at half-time.

Coach Brian McLaughlin clearly is not prepared to take any chances on the twice-capped centre who, but for those injury problems he sustained in 2010/11, might now be in New Zealand with the Ireland World Cup squad.

“It’s not too bad at all but the scan did show a little bit of damage there so, purely as a precaution, we’re resting him this weekend,” McLaughlin said.

“After what happened last year we don’t want to be taking any risks there. We’re leaving him off this weekend to rest the hamstring. We’ll reassess it on Monday.”

With Cave absent, McLaughlin must now decide who partners Nevin Spence, another of the players in outstanding form for Ulster who currently sit second in the Pro12 table having won each of their first three matches.

Luke Marshall is an option. Alternatively, McLaughlin could switch his new Kiwi, Jared Payne, who made an impressive debut at full-back last weekend. The former All Blacks Under 21s back is equally at home in the centre or on the wing. Or he could bring Ian Whitten in off the wing.

The good news on Ian Humphreys — who went off with a bruised shoulder against Cardiff — is he is making good progress and should be fit to face Ospreys.

“He didn’t train today but we’re still hopeful that he’ll be available for the weekend.

“We’re leaving that one until later in the week but at the moment we’re hopeful that he will play,” McLaughlin said at yesterday’s announcement of the squad.

“He’s recovering well but we just don’t want to say a definite yes or no at this particular time.”

With Humphreys not certain to be fit and scrum-half understudy Ian Porter having picked up a bang on the ribs in training, young half-backs Blane McIlroy and James McKinney are included in the 29.

“He (Porter) trained this morning but we’ll just and wait and see what the reaction to that is tomorrow,” the coach explained.

With Ospreys, like Ulster, having won each of their first three matches in the series, Sunday afternoon promises to be the biggest test to date for McLaughlin’s side.

“They’re unbeaten, like ourselves, so if we want to stay right up there then we’ve got to go to the Ospreys and make sure that we’re on the money to get the win we so badly want,” he said.

ULSTER squad - Forwards: Jerry Cronin, Paddy McAllister, Declan Fitzpatrick, Adam Macklin, Andi Kyriacou, John Burns, Nigel Brady, Tim Barker, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Neil McComb, Pedrie Wannenburg, Mike McComish, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack. Backs: Paul Marshall, Blane McIlroy, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, James McKinney, Luke Marshall, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten, Craig Gilroy, Conor Gaston, Jared Payne, Adam D’Arcy.

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