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Ulster could welcome key duo back in time for Cheetahs clash

By Adam McKendry

Ulster scrum-half John Cooney is in the running to face the Cheetahs this weekend despite needing nine stitches on a head wound after Sunday’s win over the Southern Kings.

Cooney was forced off after half an hour in Port Elizabeth after sustaining a nasty gash to the head during Ulster’s 28-7 win and was taken to hospital to get it stitched up.

However, assistant coach Jared Payne revealed that the influential scrum-half is in contention to feature in Bloemfontein on Friday, as is full-back Will Addison who missed out last week through illness.

“Cooney has a pretty big cut, as everyone knows, so we’ll see how that heals up over the next few days,” Payne explained.

“Will is out of his bedroom and he’s eating food so we’ll see how he goes over the next few days and make a call on Thursday.

“Hopefully they’ll both pull through but we’ll see come Thursday.”

Ulster put their unbeaten start to the season on the line on Friday against a Cheetahs side who are yet to pick up their first win of the campaign, with the hope the province can return home with two wins from their South African sojourn.

As well as having a five-day turnaround to navigate from Sunday’s win, there’s also the altitude factor to contend with in Bloemfontein, which is 1,395m above sea level. It played a big role in the Cheetahs’ impressive home form last season.

Payne believes that, despite their wretched start to the season, the Cheetahs will prove to be a massive test for his Ulster side.

The former Irish international added: “(The Cheetahs) have got a nice balance and they’re going to have a lot of similar threats to the Kings in terms of the speed on the edge, they’ll be a little bit more structured as well, but they’ve also got that flair.

“It’s going to be another step up and another massive test for us this week.”

Belfast Telegraph

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