Tommy Bowe and Paddy Jackson could be in mix for Ulster PRO12 clash with Cardiff Blues
Tommy Bowe and Paddy Jackson could be in the mix for Friday's PRO12 clash at Cardiff Blues (kick-off 7.35pm) after it is believed they have worked their way back to fitness from issues which have kept them sidelined since last season.
Bowe underwent an operation in the off-season to right a niggling groin injury while Jackson has struggled with a back problem and both players missed out on Ireland's tour to Argentina in June.
Whether both will actually start on Friday, on Cardiff's artificial surface, remains to be seen but it would appear that they should be part of the squad which has so far drawn and won their opening two games while registering try bonuses in both.
Meanwhile, Ruan Pienaar underwent a scan yesterday to determine the extent of the worrying knee injury he sustained in Wellington while playing for South Africa during last Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with the All Blacks and more clarity on the 30-year-old's situation will be issued by the Springboks either today or on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old is definitely out of the Boks' remaining Championship games and looks highly unlikely to be making it back in time for Ulster's opening two European Rugby Champions Cup games next month.
Also on the injury front, Ulster are monitoring centre Darren Cave, who picked up a rib problem in last Friday's win over Zebre.
Cave trained yesterday and his availability will be decided later this week while fellow centre Jared Payne will be missing from the Blues clash due to the rib injury he picked up against the Scarlets on the first weekend.
As for Iain Henderson, the Ireland international will be going under the knife on September 25 for hip surgery to an already documented problem which requires action and will keep him sidelined for some time.
Prop Declan Fitzpatrick suffered a concussion after coming off the bench against the Scarlets and is following the usual return to play protocols while squad member Rory Scholes picked up a fractured bone in his foot while playing for Belfast Harlequins in the AIL last weekend.
Meanwhile, Andrew Trimble –who is currently Ulster's top try scorer with two touchdowns along with Dan Tuohy – has warned his team-mates that they will need to be much more precise against the Blues this time around after losing in Wales last season.
"We struggled at Cardiff last year but we have to make sure we get our heads around it," he said of the Blues' artificial surface.
"We're getting used to it now with the 3G pitch at Aquinas so hopefully it will be a good opportunity for us to play some rugby."