RaboDirect Pro12: Humphreys and Cave in a race against time for Ospreys battle
Ulster duo Darren Cave and Ian Humphreys are still receiving treatment after Friday night’s PRO12 League win over Cardiff Blues though it is yet unclear if they will be available for selection for Sunday’s clash at the Ospreys.
Double try-scorer Cave was withdrawn from the action at half time with what was described as a leg injury and the Ulster management were insistent that the in-form centre was only taken off as a precaution and that playing a full 80 minutes had never been part of the plan.
As for Humphreys, he was forced to leave the field with a shoulder injury in the last 10 minutes of the game after being hit high and late by Blues centre Casey Laulala.
Humphreys and Cave, who collectively scored 17 of Ulster’s 20 points in Friday night’s win over the Blues, had scans yesterday as they underwent treatment.
The two players are coach Brian McLaughlin’s only pressing injury concerns ahead of the trip to Liberty Stadium and there is believed to be some concern that Cave may have suffered a recurrence of a hamstring problem.
Should both Cave and Humphreys not make what will be a tough trip to unbeaten Ospreys, then McLaughlin will have some re-jigging to do regarding his backline.
Paddy Jackson should slot in for Humphreys if the Ulster out half is forced to withdraw and Queen’s University’s James McKinney may then be benched to provide the cover.
If Cave misses out, then it could be a starting place for Luke Marshall who has looked sharp this season and should complement the midfield along with Nevin Spence.
There is also the alternative of moving Jared Payne, who had an impressive debut, to centre and playing Adam D’Arcy again at the back.
With nine players in total involved with the World Cup, picking up injuries to key players is anything but ideal at this stage of the season.
Ulster’s 20-3 result over the Blues placed them top of the table, after three wins from three outings, but only until Saturday night when Munster’s bonus point win over the Scarlets saw them take top spot, by a solitary point, from McLaughlin’s side.
The Ospreys kept their unbeaten run going with a tight enough 32-27 result at Treviso and are in third.
They will be hoping there is more daylight between the sides than the last time Ulster came to Swansea when Sean Holley’s side just shaded things 23-22 last February.