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Ulster Rugby handed huge Champions Cup boost as Robert Baloucoune returns to training

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Robert Baloucoune is back in training with Ulster Rugby. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Robert Baloucoune is back in training with Ulster Rugby. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

©INPHO/James Crombie

Robert Baloucoune is back in training with Ulster Rugby. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Ulster have been handed a significant boost on the eve of their return to Champions Cup action with Robert Baloucoune back in training.

His involvement on the paddock is no guarantee of involvement in the key clash with Northampton Saints on Sunday (3.15pm kick-off) but the province's attack coach Dan Soper has said he could feature provided he comes through the week unscathed.

The Irish international hasn't featured for the side since injuring his shoulder in the win over Clermont last month.

"Robert Baloucoune is getting close but he's got to get through training this week," said Soper.

"He's the only one that would be a major change."

Things remain less definitive on Baloucoune's fellow wing Jacob Stockdale who has been out since the first game of the season with a foot injury.

With Stockdale, Iain Henderson, Stuart McCloskey and Jordi Murphy all out at present, the side are missing a huge chunk of their most experienced players.

"They're all being well looked after and it's really a week to week thing with those guys," added Soper. "Hopefully, I know Stu was saying last week he wasn't too far away. The medics are doing a good job but it's just taking a bit of time.

"The other guys are more long-term, I'm not sure where they're at."

Soper added that he would not expect Stockdale back in the next few weeks.

Ulster travel to Northampton having won 10 of their last 12 in the Champions Cup against Premiership sides and know that a win would virtually guarantee them a place in the knock-out stages come the spring.

Chris Boyd's men are coming off the back of a one-sided win over Newcastle at the weekend though and Soper is expecting a good game.

"They're a hell of a team and they play a great brand of rugby," he said. "They're one of the really exciting teams to watch in the Premiership.

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"The game here a few weeks ago was a good game with both teams having a crack at each other.

"I'd expect to see something similar. Certainly we have the intent to go out there and be positive. I know that's very much part of their philosophy so I'm expecting a good game of rugby."


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