Injured Rory Best a Euro worry for Ulster after holiday derby KO
Ulster skipper Rory Best has been ruled out of the province's festive slate of interpros with an ongoing infection.
Best was due to captain the side against Harlequins in Twickenham Stoop a fortnight ago, but was forced to pull out just before the side left for London when a cut picked up on Ireland duty became infected and required a hospital stay.
With Ulster straight back into European action after a run of three Irish derbies that begins on Saturday with a trip to face Connacht at the Sportsground (7.35pm kick-off), the hooker will face a race against time to return for the crucial Pool One fixture with La Rochelle in Kingspan Stadium in the new year.
"It's a difficult one," said skills coach Niall Malone. "It is not really an injury, it was caused by a stamp on the leg, but it was a blood infection so it's more medical than injury.
"That surprised us, he was training with us one day and then the next day we were told he would not be available for a couple of weeks.
"It is a shame with Rory because he has not featured very much for us at all this year.
"We need him if we are to be successful. So it is another couple of weeks before we see him when we had expected him to be available.
"We are probably looking at Europe, but we cannot put a date on it. He's certainly missing the next couple of weeks anyway."
With Irish player management sure to also influence selection, Ulster added Chris Henry and Charles Piutau to an already lengthy injury list for their last fixture of 2017, but Darren Cave is set for his 200th cap.