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Bowe remains as Payne drops out of Ulster's Champions Cup panel for young out-half

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster will de-register Jared Payne, rather than Tommy Bowe, from their Champions Cup squad ahead of taking on La Rochelle at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday afternoon (1pm kick-off).

The province need to make room for out-half Johnny McPhillips, who has been named on the bench in their last three PRO14 games but was not in the panel submitted to EPCR back in October.

Les Kiss' side can take over the top spot in Pool One should they topple the French side in round five, setting themselves up with a great chance of making the last eight for the first time since 2014. Such a result, though, will require a big improvement from their showing last time out.

With Bowe set for a spell of up to eight weeks on the sidelines after picking up an injury to his sternum against Leinster on Saturday, the two-time British and Irish Lion could have been the man to drop out of the panel, but instead it will be his fellow Irish international Payne.

Naturalised Kiwi Payne has yet to play this season and has been suffering from cervicogenic headaches since his early return from the British and Irish Lions tour last summer.

Despite being back in training since before Christmas, the 32-year-old now can't make his season bow until February at the earliest.

More, meanwhile, should become clear on Bowe's condition today after scans on his shoulder.

The Monaghan man has had a torrid time with injuries in recent seasons. Having suffered a knee injury on World Cup duty in 2015, he broke a leg on his return to the Irish side against Wales in last year's Six Nations.

Finally seeming to be enjoying an injury-free run, he has been struck down again, picking up his latest issue when only back from a hamstring strain. The wing, 34 next month, is out of contract this summer.

• Joe Marler will discover his Six Nations fate in a disciplinary hearing today following his red card in Harlequins' Aviva Premiership defeat at Sale.

The England prop was sent off for striking TJ Ioane with the shoulder as Harlequins lost 30-29 to the Sharks on Saturday.

Now the 27-year-old will appear before an independent RFU disciplinary panel, where he could receive a ban to put his Six Nations chances into doubt.

Marler could face a minimum six-week ban, which could rule him out of at least three of England's Six Nations clashes.

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