Ulster blow as Paddy Jackson is sidelined until New Year
Ulster have been hit by yet another injury blow after it was confirmed yesterday that out-half Paddy Jackson will be out of the game for up to six weeks after damaging his shoulder in last Friday's win over the Ospreys.
The 22-year-old suffered an AC joint sprain to his right shoulder shortly after the hour mark and departed the field in some pain before Ulster sealed their 25-16 win late on with Darren Cave's second try.
Ulster coach Neil Doak will now be without his first choice out-half, who was playing well last Friday night until his injury struck, until the New Year and Jackson will also sit out Ulster's next venture into their struggling European campaign when they take on the Scarlets in back-to-back encounters early next month.
It also severely stalls Jackson's bid to bank valuable game time in what has already been an injury disrupted season and is particularly unfortunate for the player who had spoken last week of the need to put in a run of games to not only assist in recapturing his form but also to give him a shot at becoming part of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's plans again.
Doak now looks likely to be starting Ian Humphreys at out-half for Friday night's visit to Munster though Stuart Olding can also play there if required while Ruan Pienaar - who it is thought may play his first game in an Ulster jersey this season in the initial Scarlets clash on December 6 - could also be an option during Jackson's recuperation.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Dan Tuohy is also believed to be on course for a return (after breaking his arm in September) for the first European clash with the Scarlets, which is at the Kingspan Stadium, while Jared Payne (foot), Luke Marshall (knee) and possibly Iain Henderson (hip) are thought to be in line to potentially be back next month.
Both Rory Best and Tommy Bowe will not be involved at Thomond Park on Friday and are rested after their endeavours for Ireland, though Robbie Diack -who won his second Ireland cap against Georgia - is believed to be available for selection.
Having absorbed the latest setback, Doak will be aiming to rekindle the spirit of last May's trip to Thomond Park, when an understrength Ulster side tore up the form book by turning Munster over, as they prepare to return to Limerick on Friday.
After last week's impressive 25-16 win over the Ospreys downed the Welsh side for the first time in this league campaign, Doak's squad - who are on equal points with last week's opponents at the top of the table but are in second by not having won as many games - will travel with confidence that they can now get a result at the Munster fortress.
Paul Marshall did not feature in last May's clash and was on the bench for Ulster's other recent attention-grabbing Thomond Park victory when they booked themselves a place in the then Heineken Cup semi-final with an epic result down there in 2012.
Nevertheless, the scrum-half is looking forward to the much anticipated meeting with Munster, who are in third.
He said: "Munster away is always special and they are a formidable team in general.
"It's always enjoyable playing in interpros, there is always extra bite and hopefully we can put a performance together."