Injury crisis for Ulster as six players struggle to fill No13 shirt
Thirteen is proving unlucky for Ulster with SIX outside centres either out or doubtful for Saturday's Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster in the Aviva Stadium (5.30pm).
The province were already likely to be without No13 Will Addison who hasn't played since January due to a back complaint and lost James Hume for the season after a training ground ankle injury last week.
Out of other players in the position, Luke Marshall is back with the squad but hasn't played since last May, following cruciate ligament surgery, while Angus Curtis is also out and both Louis Ludik and Darren Cave went off with injuries during Saturday's 33-19 PRO14 win over Southern Kings.
Cave seems the most likely to make a quick recovery, although Ulster have not ruled out throwing Marshall back in at the deep end after a 10-month layoff.
Iain Henderson, Marty Moore, Craig Gilroy and Sean Reidy are all also carrying knocks.
No matter who takes the field, Ulster flanker Matty Rea says every member of the squad is ready to step up for the challenge of a first quarter-final in five years.
“It’s obviously disappointing but injuries are such a massive part of the game now,” he said.
“There’s plenty of people in this squad and that’s the way it’s been all season. Dan (McFarland) has prepared everyone, you get your chance and you have to take it. You know your roles, you know the system that we’re playing now and it’s something we can all slot into regardless.”
Rea made his first start since October on Saturday, lining out at blindside flanker in a game that lifted Ulster to second in their conference, and admitted he’d love to play a part in the big one this weekend.
“Obviously it’s a big game and it’s the one everybody wants to be involved in,” said the Ballymena man. “Personally and as a team we want to go down there and be competitive, and these are the things that start this week, the preparation.”
Ulster will naturally need to be better than they were required to be against Kings, the five-try win coming despite some lapses in concentration.
“We probably made harder work of it than we should have,” Rea added. “I think there were good parts of play but, not to discredit them, we fell to Kings’ level and got a bit loose sometimes when we should have played with structure.
“We’re pretty happy with the performance there, there were a lot of good aspects there, a lot of good play.
“It’s about trying to get that cohesion back after three weeks off, which is tough enough, but we did well. We rallied a bit in the second half and got stuck in again, it was just defensively we let them away with a few soft decisions and let them in. There was a bit of luck on their side as well but these things happen. It’s rugby.”